Friday, September 18, 2020

How statistics lie about COVID

I got an email today saying the number of students at Utah Valley University testing positive to COVID-19 had increased by 152% last week. How many cases at UVU? The percentage doesn't say.

The numbers are 198 since the start of the semester and 58 in the last seven days. So that is about 0.5 percent of 40,000 students. How does that compare with other schools? UVU's neighbor BYU has 203 cases. 

As I write, I am within walking distance of Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, Missouri. Of a student body of 6800 students, 377 have had positive results since the beginning of the semester. That is 5.5 percent.  Maryville is located in Nodaway County, which has a population of 23,370. The county has had 700 cases of COVID-19. That's about 3 percent of the population.

Utah county has a population of 600,000 with 14,476 COVID cases. That is about 2.4 percent of the population. Utah's governor has increased the infection level to orange from yellow this week.

Percentages alone don't tell the whole story. You need to see numbers as well as comparisons with other organizations and locations. 

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