On today’s show we’re going to do an analysis that show how you can use numbers from the same data set to construct virtually any story that you want.
We are continually exposed to data in the news and the news source will provide an in-depth analysis with lots of supporting data.
Let’s say that you wanted to create a narrative on which country is experiencing the worst outbreak of Covid-19. For the purpose of today’s show, we’re going to rely on data that is available on worldometer.com. This website collects all kinds of global data like population data, global oil reserves, coal reserves, the number of bicycles manufactured each year, and yes, statistics related to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Of course the conclusions you draw from the data are only as good as the data collection that supports the numbers.
But on today’s show, we are going to also examine which measures provide meaningful insights, and those which are completely useless.
So back to our question, “Which country has experienced the worst outbreak of Covid-19?”
If we go to world-o-meter, you would see that as of today, May 4, 2020, the United State has more reported cases than any other country. The data shows that of the approximately 3.5M globally reported cases, approximately 1.2M are in the United States.
But we know that testing and reporting has not been uniform across the globe.
There is a clear correlation between testing and reported cases. If you’re not testing, then the reported numbers would be low. So let’s take a deeper look at the testing numbers and see if that can give us a clue.
The USA reports having performed more than 7.1M Covid-19 tests, more than any other country. Russia is a close second with 4.1M tests. So perhaps the numbers are accurate, the US has the worst outbreak in the world.
Let’s take a closer look and see how the testing compares against other countries. So far, the US has performed 21,400 tests per million of population. That would place the US in 42nd position out of all countries in the world for extensive testing.
So maybe that’s not the best metric. Perhaps we need to look at the number of serious cases and compare that with the ability of the health care system to handle the outbreak. Next down the list is Brazil with 8,300 serious cases. They have far fewer critical care beds and have experienced significant outbreaks in areas with very poor health care infrastructure. Perhaps Brazil is the hardest hit country?
What about deaths? Which country has experienced the most deaths? Maybe that’s a better measure. So perhaps let’s look at the number of deaths due to Covid-19.
Here too, the US leads the world with the largest number of reported deaths due to Covid-19 with 68,200 deaths. Clearly, the US is the hardest hit country.
But wait a minute, perhaps that’s not a meaningful measure. The US has a large population and a huge land mass. Perhaps the number of deaths per million population would be a better measure. If you look at deaths per million, then San Marino leads the world with the most cases per million population at 1,208 deaths per million. But of course San Marino has a tiny population so even their small cluster outbreak which killed 41 people could provide a skewed statistic. Let’s see who’s next. Next on the list is Belgium with 7,844 deaths and a whopping 677 deaths per million population. The US which has more deaths at 68,000 deaths has 207 deaths per million, less than a third of Belgium.
The next major countries after Belgium include Spain, Italy, the UK and France having the most deaths per million population.
So the top 5 hardest hit countries are Belgium, Spain, Italy, the UK and France.