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  • Writer's pictureAletheia

Totally Naked PHMDC Bar Graphs

Titillated by the title of this post? Good…because today I'm going to strip away a whole new layer of questionable statistical presentation on PHMDC's COVID-19 dashboard.

First impressions matter, and PHMDC knows it. In a previous article, I exposed a prominent and very cheap parlor trick that PHMDC successfully leveraged for a whopping 10 months to terrify Dane County residents and drive compliance with its dubious and now never-ending string of emergency orders. But where one trick ended, another began...

Let's hone in on three PHMDC bar graphs: daily cases, daily tests, and “percent positivity” (a whole ball of wax on its own that Eleos has only begun to cover here). Look for these graphs on dashboard screens 2, 3, and 4 respectively. PHMDC has chosen a 14-day default view for all three of these graph. Here are a few screenshots to show you what I mean.

First, screen 2, daily cases:

Second, screen 3, or Tests:

And finally, screen 4, “percent positivity”:

To be blunt, the 14-day view is window-dressing, a distraction. It strips away 21 months of crucial context from all three of the data sets in question. I'm about to expose just how important that 21-month context is, but understand that the choice to deprive the viewer of it is purposeful.

Screens 2, 3, and 4 all allow viewers to switch to an “all time” view of their principle graphs in order to see bars for all dates back to March 7, 2020.

Here’s the all-time view for screen 2:

Next, tests, from screen 3:

And finally, the long view for "percent positivity":

The long view on each of these three screens quickly begins to reveal why PHMDC prefers to highlight the 14-day view. Looking back across the past 21 months, we can see that case spikes attributed to the Delta variant have been significantly lower. Testing numbers have likewise dropped significantly. And while "percent positivity" for late summer and early fall 2021 appears to have increased over the summer months—which one would expect heading into cold and flu season--it too is failing to achieve 2020's heights. (NOTE: Decreased testing is not responsible for fewer reported cases. The percentage graph tells us that the tests being administered simply aren't turning up as high an incidence of sick people as last year.)

Now let's dig into a few specifics. Placing your cursor over any bar on the graph will bring up a small box bearing the recorded case number for that specific date. Just for kicks, let’s take the highest spike on the full graph, November 13, 2020, which, as seen in the screenshot below, records 682 diagnosed cases of COVID:

Exactly a year later, on Nov 13, 2021, we find 192 cases. That’s 490 cases lower than the same date the previous year! But just wait...there's so much more.

Here’s screen 3, Tests. If we stick with November 13th, we find that PHMDC reports 9,408 tests administered on that date in 2020. On its own, that figure doesn’t tell us much. But if we grab the case number from the same date, we can quickly figure the percentage of those 9,408 tests that came back positive:

682 cases found / 9,408 tests administered = 0.0724

Moving the decimal point two places to the right and rounding up or down appropriately allows us to express this result as a simple percentage. PHMDC only rounds from the third decimal place. We’ll do the same. On November 13, 2020, then, about 7.2 percent of tests administered came back positive.

In the next screenshot, we can see that PHMDC only records 3,150 tests administered on November 13, 2021. They also record 192 new cases recorded on that date, so:

192 cases diagnosed / 3,150 tests administered = 0.0609

Again, moving the decimal point two places to the right gives us the percentage: 6.1 percent of COVID tests came back positive on Nov 13, 2021, a drop of 1.1 percent over the same date in 2020.

The screen 4 case percentage data allows us to verify the calculations we’ve just done. The all-time view records the percentage of tests that came back positive for Nov 13, 2020 as 7.2 and for Nov 13, 2021, as 6.1. Spot on.

Now…if these percentages seem high and scary to you, that’s just what PHMDC wants.

And herein we have the crux of a major problem.

As Eleos notes in his above-referenced post, Janel Heinrich and the PHMDC data team seem determined to mislead you into believing that "percent positivity" reflects the percentage of all Dane County residents that were positive for COVID on the dates in question.

BUT REMEMBER: these percentages actually refer only to people tested on those dates. Moreover, consider that, while many of those tests were mandated by a school or workplace (in other words, many of the tested were asymptomatic), a significant number were given to people who felt ill. Again, particularly in the midst of Wisconsin’s cold and flu season, it’s not surprising that a higher percentage of people who underwent a COVID test came back positive than in the spring or summer.

Fear would immediately plummet in Dane County if PHMDC would responsibly contextualize cases in relationship not just to the number of people tested but far more importantly—if we’re to assess properly the actual threat level—to total county population. Only in looking at things through this important lens do more honest risk levels start to become clear. But PHMDC has blithely refused to so from Day 1 of this so-called pandemic.

Since they won't, I will.

Let’s do just a tiny bit more math…

The most recent published U.S. Census estimate for Dane County is 561,504 (April 1, 2020). We can use that figure to discover first what percentage of the total county populations is represented by the number of people who tested positive on November 13, 2020 (new cases):

682 diagnosed cases / 561,504 Dane County residents = 0.0012

Move the decimal point two places to the right once again, and we discover that just 0.12 percent of all Dane County residents had a COVID test come back positive on Nov 13th last year. A great big nothing burger, especially because many of these people were not contagious (more on that another day). And remember, Nov 13, 2020, remains the highest spike ever recorded on the entire daily case graph to date.

So, PHMDC screaming about a 7.2 “positivity rate” on that date? Getting us all freaked out about how Dane County was burning up with COVID fever? Sane context reveals that PHMDC was bluffing like crazy.

What about November 13, 2021?

192 cases diagnosed / 561,5045 Dane County residents = 0.0003

That’s right…just 0.03 percent of the entire Dane County population came back with a positive test on the same date this year. And again, that's cold and flu season. So…that Delta variant they’ve had everyone so worried about has turned out to be an even lower risk to the vast majority of people in Dane County than the first not-that-bad wave of COVID.

And that trend actually stands to reason. As a general rule, virus mutations get weaker, not stronger. In fact, so far Omicron looks less threatening still. Last Friday, Dec 3rd, the World Health Organization quietly acknowledged that despite claims that Omicron has spread to 38 countries, they can't point to a single death so far.

The thing is, the all-time view used to be the only view for all three of the PHMDC bar graphs we’ve just examined. I have date-stamped screen shots to prove it. When exactly did this 14-day default view start…? January 19, 2021…as the big waves of the 2020 flu season were bottoming out.

Again, the timing is not accidental.

PHMDC has embraced and clung to the 14-day default view of its bar graphs because allowing you to see plainly that this virus is getting smaller, weaker, and less and less frightening with every passing day for the vast majority of us...? Well, that risks PHMDC's control over you, your family, and your neighbors.

The PHMDC Data Team almost certainly counted on the fact that most people viewing the dashboard wouldn’t take the time to switch to the all-time view to get the full picture. Judging by the fact that most people in Dane County are still dutifully obeying Janel Heinrich’s insane emergency orders, the PHMDC folks appear to have bet correctly.

But now you know the truth...

The empress has no clothes.

That reality leaves every Dane County resident with a choice: continue to prop up the tyranny that Janel Heinrich and the PHMDC Data Team have imposed on us and our neighbors or...not.

While you're mulling over that choice, I have a question for you: How is it ever loving or kind to remain silent and compliant while family, friends, and neighbors are daily being undone by a lie?

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