Tuesday, December 8, 2020

NYC Daily Positive Covid Test Numbers Among the Missing

Guess what you can’t find on the NYC Covid "Latest Data" site anymore?  

Answer:  How many New Yorkers tested positive on any given day.

 Nope.  Gonzo. 

“Less pertinent” Mayor DeBlasio said this week as he announced yet another change to the way the city presents Covid data to the public. Reporting the city's seven-day rolling average positivity is a better measurement, the Mayor claims. As of Monday the average was 4.98%.  The city’s marker to take more actions is 5 %.

I’ll humbly leave it to the epi folks to go at it about the pros and cons of accurate data reporting. 

I’m interested in and study what happens when you change up the way you present people with the data or indicators, especially when it replaces simpler math with harder math. Raw number with percentage rates, for example. 

Think back to when we moved from talking to patients about blood sugar levels and started using  A1C.  Blood sugar levels vary throughout the day. The hemoglobin A1c number reflects your average blood sugar over the past 2-3 months. 

Studies estimate that as few as 25% of people with diabetes can accurately describe the meaning of the hemoglobin A1c value (HbA1c) or recall their most recent value. 

Furthermore most patients recognize the name of the test, but less than 50% of patients with diabetes know their A1C level or what their target level is.

But wait, there's more.  

How about when pounds became BMI. Weight is what you see on the scale.  

BMI is an estimate of body fat. Health providers and insurance companies changed to these new indicators over a decade ago.  But the jury is still out on whether that actually helped patients understand or monitor their health. Fact,  a majority of patients do not know their own BMIs and could not recall discussing their BMI with physicians.


Dear Mayor, 

  • Not all change is progress
  • It’s always prickly to change data/information that people have gotten used to               checking out;
  • And it’s really never a good idea to not repeatedly explain what you’re changing and why.  And to do it in ways average people can understand, accept, trust and USE. 

Indicators are meant to help us understand what’s going on, to accumulate information to get a lay of the land and what that means for us. 

At the very least there should be a big, loud SHOUT OUT. (I'm sure you can come up with your own shout out.  Here's a quick stab at one).  

Notice Anything Different?  

We’re not showing you how many people tested positive everyday.  The reason is that more and more people are getting tested (that's a good thing!). That number is getting bigger all the time. Big numbers can tell us more if we talk about what percentage (%) that number is.  We know that if the number of positive tested people goes to 5% we are in a danger zone again.  We must take action to slow the virus spread down. 

Right now you can see that 3.9% of all New Yorkers who got Covid tested were positive.  

When we look at the percentage every 7 days we can get a clearer picture of the trend ( the direction we are headed).  So keep your eye on the 7 day trend.  

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