Thursday, May 28, 2020

The anti Trump bias in the BBC's statistical analysis is astonishingly obvious

To compare statistics from the US with those of Iran, Mexico and Iran is malpractice. What about China?

Coronavirus: How the pandemic in US compares with rest of world

  • 27 May 2020
Promo image showing Donald Trump
Two days after the US recorded its first case of coronavirus, Donald Trump said the situation was "totally under control" and assured the public it was "going to be just fine". 
Fast forward four months and the virus has spread across all 50 states, leaving a death toll of 100,000 from more than 1.6 million confirmed cases. 
We've taken a look at how those figures compare to other countries around the world and how the situation could develop over the next few months. 
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How does the situation in the US compare?

President Trump points at a chart showing mortality rates at a White House briefing in April - 17 April 2020Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionPresident Trump points at a chart showing mortality rates at a White House briefing in April
The death toll in the US became the highest in the world in early April and has risen dramatically since then. 
President Donald Trump initially said "50 to 60,000" people could die during the outbreak but in May he said he was hopeful the toll would be lower than 100,000. That benchmark has now been hit though and there are still about 1,000 deaths a day on average. 
Rather than focus on deaths, Mr Trump has preferred to cite the mortality rate - that is the number of people that have died relative to the country's population - as evidence that the US has dealt with the virus more effectively than some other nations.
The chart below shows the countries with the highest death tolls and, to the right, their mortality rate. You can see that by that measure there are several countries where a greater proportion of the population has died during the coronavirus outbreak. 
Chart showing the ten countries with the highest death tolls and the mortality rates for each. The US has seen 100,000 deaths, a rate of 30 people per 100,000 population. Belgium has seen 9,000 deaths, a rate of 82 people per 100,000 population. The UK has seen 37,000 deaths, a rate of 56 people per 100,000 population.
Belgium, with a population of 11.5 million, has seen 82 people in every 100,000 die during its coronavirus outbreak while the US, with a population of around 330 million, has seen nearly 30 people in every 100,000 die. 
But if you look at New York - the worst-hit state in the US - the mortality rate there is close to 150 people in every 100,000, which shows that there is a lot of variation across the US. 
One of the problems with comparing countries is that many of them report deaths in different ways. Belgium, for instance, includes deaths where coronavirus was suspected of being present but was never confirmed with a test. Some US states record deaths this way, but not all. 
There have also been questions over whether official data from some countries can be trusted. Critics of China in particular have accused it of under-reporting the scale of its outbreak
Another issue is that countries could be at different stages of an outbreak. In many European countries it's clear that daily cases numbers are coming down significantly and they are past the peak. But you can't say the same for the US at the moment. 
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New York over the worst, but is the US? 

Several countries in Europe had outbreaks around the same time as the US and all of them have seen the number of deaths grow quickly, peak and then fall away. The US has not. 
One of the reasons the number of daily deaths in the US has plateaued rather than fallen is the sheer size of the country - rather than one large outbreak, there have been multiple centres of infection that developed at different times and spread at different rates. 
In New York, the virus struck early, spread quickly and peaked in early April. In the rest of the US, however, the number of daily deaths has been slow to fall.
A chart showing how the number of daily deaths in New York compares to the number in the rest of the US.
Some other states that were badly affected early on, like Louisiana and Michigan, have also seen a substantial drop in the number of daily deaths like that in New York.
But as the situation in those states has improved, others have worsened. About a third of all states saw more deaths last week compared to the week before, with Rhode Island, Mississippi and Ohio seeing some of the largest percentage increases

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