Sunday, April 5: Adding it up

Yesterday, I noticed that the new NYS COVID tracking tool did not seem to have correct Onondaga County numbers, even accounting for a couple days’ lag. Looks like it’s not just me wondering about this.

The “Old Normal” impulse would be to assume there is some kind of grand political conspiracy in Albany to obfuscate all kinds of metrics, massage data and misrepresent the true scale of the outbreak across different cities or regions. But what these numbers really tell us is that Albany absolutely has no handle on what is happening anywhere. (We all long suspected this of course, but not in this viscerally scary way. There is no one flying the plane.)

In Onondaga County we get a different set of numbers, and the different measurements (number of tests, number of positives, hospitalizations, active cases, etc) have been emphasized differently over time – but this has been on a progressive, changing basis that makes some sense. Now that tests are coming back regularly with quick turnaround time, and it seems the number of new tests results each day has been fairly consistent, Onondaga County health officials now are in a position to make predictions that might hold up. Yesterday, a rough estimate of 28 expected new cases for today was given, although that drew on a pool of unreturned tests that includes a certain percentage of non-county residents — since Onondaga has opened its arms wide for test-seekers from other regions as well as its own multi-county region. However, this percentage was noted in yesterday’s briefing, and they sounded like they were taking this into account.

You just have to hope and trust that all this data is (a) correct, and (b) honestly presented. In comparison to the obscurity coming from the state, Onondaga officials have been transparent, detailed and consistent. (Yesterday, Erie County’s CE decided not to give a daily briefing because “There is nothing to add.”)

I hope that today, Onondaga County also moves toward also reporting the best stats they can for the large swath of CNY and NNY that they “claim.” We should at least get a running daily total of positives from those counties as a whole. This data hunt obviously would take extra time and manpower that overworked county officials don’t have. And every county has designed their own ArcGIS dashboards (some of them are really getting into it), or in some cases don’t have any at all — such as St. Lawrence County, whose rising positive numbers are also a little concerning. (“Map shows the cases as of 4/3/20 and will be updated on 4/6/20. Check back soon and stay healthy!”)