I love the Guardian. Every day it my reading go-to place as it offers high quality free online news. Rare these days. Don't forget you can donate to support its journalism. I do.
However, the frightening headline to an item on the Guardian's news blog stream in recent days made me pause. It stated that "The death rate of those admitted to intensive care with Covid-19 has topped 50%, according to the latest figures". The post was made at 08.11 on 4 April and based on data compiled by the UK’s Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre.
But on a closer look I realise this is an incomplete audit of 2249 patients as all outcomes are not yet known (although it is being conducted in real time). To present the mortality rate of less than one third of the patients in the study sample “whose care outcomes are known” is cherrypicking from the data, and thus misleading. Outcomes are still not known for more than two thirds of the group ("1559 patients still in critical care"). To a causal reader it might appear that 50% of people in intensive care with coronavirus were going to die.
Now that I'm checking my facts for this blog I have just found an almost identical report in the Mirror — so which came first in this misleading report, The Guardian or The Mirror? Looks like the Guardian posting at 08.11am (but I can't find and prove that post anymore). Either way it is a good example of how all the news these days (as it probably ever was) is recycled. Fake or not.
A more measured approach is to wait to see how many of the remaining patients in critical care die, and how many recover to be discharged. Then, and only then, is it right to compare a possible coronavirus mortality rate with a historic rate for seasonal flu between 2017 and 2019 (which has 100% known outcomes, i.e. hindsight). Indeed coronavirus is likely to have a higher mortality rate, but lets wait for the facts, i.e. all the data, before jumping to conclusions.
It's a fact. There are lies, damned lies….and statistics.
#coronavirus #covid19 #TheGuardian #statistics
© Alison Hackett 8 April 2020
Alison Hackett — Director and founder of 21st Century Renaissance; author of The Visual Time Traveller 500 Years of History, Art and Science in 100 Unique Designs