Writing On The Wahl #031— COVID-19 update for the week starting September 6th, 2021.
Over the past month, I have been tracking Saint Lucia’s COVID-19 dashboard for updated figures from the current spike of confirmed cases. I decided to compile the numbers per week rather than per day to identify trends better. It’s like the idiom says,” Don’t miss the forest for the tree,” or in other words, if you get caught up in the emotional sensation of daily updates, you may very well not be seeing the bigger picture.
When I started tracking the numbers on August 16th, 2021, we had 809 active cases, representing 12.5% of the 6,475 confirmed cases. On August 23rd, 2021, it increased to 19.7% of all confirmed cases (7,232) were active cases (1,428). On August 23rd, 2021, it raises further to 24.2%, and now on September 6th, 2021, we have 26.1% of all confirmed cases (9,149) are considered active (2,391).
The first trend I noticed is the percentage point difference is trending downwards, which works out to 7, 5, and 2, respectively. Therefore while we are undeniably amid a spike, the numbers indicate we are approaching a plateau. This idea is also demonstrated in further calculations of the rate of increase of active cases.
When I first started tracking the numbers on August 6th, 2021, there was an increase of 223 active cases representing a 38.1% increase. On August 23rd, 2021, it increased by 76.5%, with a bump of 619 active cases. By the entry date, August 30th, 2021, the rate of increase did not continue to grow. While we still had a significant spike of 546 new active cases, it only represented a 27.7% increase from the last week. This trend of reduction in the growth rate in active cases continues into the entry for September 6th, 2021, where we saw 417 new active cases representing a 21.1% increase.
These trends tell me there is no indication of an exponential surge in cases which is the primary concern for potentially overwhelming our hospital. Not to say that slow and steady increases in patients cannot also contribute to hospital overflows. But if we manage to maintain a high recovery rate, we can ensure that our healthcare system is not strained beyond its capacity.
The good news is that the recovery rate is increasing steadily, but the bad news is that while an ever-increasing number of people are recovering, the death rate is also growing. The rate of increase in the recovery rate for the difference between the week ending August 30th and September 6th was 8.2%, but the respective increase in the death rate during that same period jumped to 12.6%. It is important to note that the recovery rate deals with numbers in the hundreds, and the death rate deals with numbers in the tens. Not to undermine the significance of a single life lost, as I only intend to inject context.
In conclusion, we cannot deny that we are in a spike and that people are losing their lives. But it is hard to paint an accurate picture of the situation because there is a lack of data. The government can provide information, but that information is made up of select data sets. It will always be constructed to support the narrative the state wants the public to follow.
For example, the Ministry of Health is now tracking the vaccine delivery separately by manufacturer and has given those numbers prominence in the COVID-19 dashboard. But they are not regularly providing the breakdown of more essential data, like deaths from COVID compared to deaths with COVID or an analysis of hospitalization according to the severity of illness, duration of hospitalization, co-morbidities associated with increased rates of hospitalization and death across several demographics like age, gender, geography, and so on.
I call for the Ministry of Health to redesign their COVID-19 dashboard to provide a more robust data set. I have no problem with the state putting out information that supports their narrative. Still, it must come with the raw data so journalists, who occupy the 4th estate, can independently verify the information and potentially discover information vital in challenging our assumptions and protecting us from groupthink.
The situation is dire, and we must not trivialize it by allowing its degradation into tribalism. We are making decisions today that will impact us for generations to come, and we cannot afford to do that based on emotions of cheap tricks of rhetoric. We need mature leadership that understands debate is not meant to be comfortable. The role of a devil’s advocate is vital within any complex system to ensure we are not falling victim to our own cognitive biases.
Correlation does not equal causation. The authorities may believe that specific none pharmaceutical interventions have caused the cases to go up or down as tightened or eased when in reality they could be inconsequential and akin to an athlete’s pregame ritual, which only has a psychological effect, a sort of placebo if you will. Take the restrictions on minibuses. What scientific data do they have to subject that ten passengers are the magic number? Sure, you have three fewer people on the bus to potentially get infected, but the virus will still spread amongst those there who, in turn, will transmit it onward.
It’s said that water will always find its level, and I believe that is also true for the virus in that it will always find ways to spread. Therefore we need to transition from thinking that we can contain the virus and start figuring out how to start living with the virus as best as we can without becoming prisoners of our precaution. I will continue to monitor the situation and report back to you next week, same place, same time.
Be strong, stay safe, and God bless Saint Lucia.