Don’t Celebrate Too Early

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 1 min read

How Virus Data Can Mislead - The New York Times

With more parts of the U.S. starting to reopen, many people will be tempted to look at the data this week and start proclaiming victory over the virus. But this week’s data won’t tell us much. It will instead reflect the reality from early May and late April, when much of the country was still on lockdown.

“The data are always two or three weeks old,” Ezekiel Emanuel of the University of Pennsylvania told me. “And we have a hard time understanding that things are different from what we’re looking at.” Crystal Watson of Johns Hopkins University told The Associated Press that we wouldn’t really know how reopening had affected the virus’s spread for five to six weeks.

It’s possible that the reopenings won’t cause the outbreaks that many epidemiologists fear — because many people will still stay home, or because they will venture out cautiously, or because the virus may spread more slowly in warmer air. But it’s also possible that the country will find itself suffering through a new wave of outbreaks in June.

Either way, I’d encourage you not to leap to premature conclusions.

Long story short: acting like “we’re good, there haven’t been any spikes in the week since opening up!” is ignorant to how any of this works. It’s seeing the answer we all want to be true, but let’s take it slow and make sure things are okay before celebrating.

Of note, there seems to be a lot of overlap with those who want to cheer “it’s all better!” and people who said this coronavirus wasn’t going to impact the US in March, who said this would clear up in a few weeks, said it would be done by April 1, said we’d be back to normal on Easter, said it would be back to normal at the end of April… Things will get more back to normal, and we very well may be on the verge of that happening in many places in the US, but I think about this video a lot with people saying “it’s over” clearly before it actually is.