Q&A – What we’ve learned from the states which reopened over two weeks ago

Q&A of the Day – What we’ve learned from the states which reopened over two weeks ago

Each day I’ll feature a listener question that’s been submitted by one of these methods. 

Email: brianmudd@iheartmedia.com

Twitter: @brianmuddradio

Facebook: Brian Mudd https://www.facebook.com/brian.mudd1

Today’s entry: Thanks for staying with the facts throughout the pandemic. I’m sure it hasn’t been easy. You’d reported recently about the first five states to reopen being a success.You still can’t find coverage about it anywhere. Now that it’s been two weeks shouldn’t we know for sure if reopening worked? 

Bottom Line: Yes, yes & yes. I realize there was only one question but yes – to the challenge of communicating facts consistently when we’ve been surrounded by a news media fixated on narratives rather than truth. Yes, to the success of the first five states to reopen but the absence of reporting to that effect. Yes, that with an incubation period of 2-14 days for COVID-19, with an average of five days, we can draw clear first conclusions about the number of new COVID cases in first five states to reopen. Let’s get right to it. Here’s the performance of the five states which reopened April 24th, after 15 days. Percentage change of COVID-19 cases for the most recent seven days compared to the seven days prior to reopening.

  • Alaska: Down 54%
  • Georgia: Down 15%  
  • Oklahoma: down 3%
  • South Carolina: Up 6%
  • Vermont: Down 39%

Clearly reopening has been a big success in Alaska, Georgia, Oklahoma and Vermont. To be able to reopen and have new cases drop meaningfully in the process is terrific news. It likely speaks to people generally acting responsibly as life in the new normal begins. The news clearly isn’t as good in South Carolina where new cases are now higher than they were prior to reopening. It’s not a big increase in new cases but it is an increase nevertheless. It’s possible that new testing coming online is responsible for the rise in new cases. To that end, and to address the narrative of news reporting I touched on at the onset of the story, here’s what 538’s Nate Silver tweeted this weekend about the media’s handling of coverage.

Not providing context on the increase in testing is such a basic error, and has been so widespread, that it's revealing about the media's goals. It's more interested in telling plausibly-true stories (narratives) that sound smart to its audience than in accuracy/truth per se.

That doesn't mean it's just making stuff up or engaging in fake news. On the contrary, the facts it relays are generally accurate in isolation. But the problems are in how facts are strung together and emphasized. Often there are sins of omission.

Sound familiar to what you often hear me say, the most pervasive form of bias in news media being omission? If you’re familiar with Nate Silver & 538, you know that he/they are far from being on the right of the aisle politically. They do happen to be analytical in the approach. Here’s the bottom line, on balance, the five states which have now been reopened for over two weeks have been a success. They’ve proven you can begin to reopen while reducing the spread of the virus. As South Florida begins to thaw, and as Florida with the exception of the tri-county enters its second week, there’s a lot to feel good about provided we’re responsible in the process. 

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