Anomalies are not usually a golden opportunity for data – they’re usually classified as outliers. But COVID-19 is not a normal anomaly, in any way, shape or form, and the surge of statistics circulating the internet about any given aspect of the virus and its impact (or potential impact) gave our team of data junkies a hot topic to hash out in their Slack Chat Team Question.

Jamie McClave Baldwin (Dr. Jamie McClave Baldwin – President, Expert Statistician): Depending on your news source or website, the analytics and recommendations continue to be all over the place concerning the spread, contagion, and best way to prevent or end COVID-19. So my question to our crack team of data junkies and analysis addicts is this: If you could access any data you wanted, what would that be and what analysis would you do to learn more about COVID-19?

Paula Mullally (Paula Mullally – Senior Case Analyst): Without really knowing much about epidemiology, maybe spread patterns of previous viruses including measures taken country by country and at what point during the spread? Logistics networks for medical supplies that are most needed for containment.

Chuck Girard (Senior Data Analyst): Given that we haven’t had a world-wide epidemic like this in 100 years, but have had several smaller outbreaks in the last 20, I would want to know a lot of background demographic, environmental, socioeconomic, behavioral, health information about the patient 0(very low number) population in order to try to determine what is causing this seemingly unusual increase in the outbreaks of deadly diseases. We’ve had SARS, Ebola, and several others recently. Then, of course, COVID-19 this year. What will we have next year? In what ways are we possibly contributing the origin, spread, or deadliness of these diseases? Climate change, antibiotics, something else in the food/water supply… aliens…

Janese Nix (Janese Nix – Statistical Consultant): Has anyone seen any reports on hospital beds and ICU beds/person by community or region? Any reports of increased capacity? I’ve seen articles that talk about increases but not any tracking of that info.

This is a cool site for tracking Florida activity. It doesn’t estimate the onset (symptomatic) but diagnosis. It is more up to date than the CDC, since it updates more often.

It’s got age demographics by county which is cool as well as number hospitalized. Alachua County had 5 hospitalized yesterday and 4 today. That may mean that one patient has been discharged (and recovered). Other countries are reporting numbers of recovery but I haven’t seen that for the US.

Paul Manning (Paul Manning – Director, Data Management): Data update: The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) is an independent global health research center at the University of Washington. They have been identified as a “legitimate” source for COVID projections. Their hospital resource used analysis to provide US and state by state projections for beds, ICU beds, and ventilators. Their numbers imply that local officials may be making requests based on worst-case scenarios instead of expected values, i.e. 20k (40k upper 95% UI) ventilators will be needed nationwide at the peak while Mr. Cuomo is requesting 30k for NY alone.

The good/bad news for us (Florida) is we are flattening the curve better than most but our peak occurs in mid-May which is a month after the US and 2 weeks later than most every other state. Plus we will have no bed shortages and actually will continue to have high excess capacity. What is causing Florida’s curve to be so different from the rest of the country? Are our medical facilities better than most because of our older population or is the delay a result of the late migration of New Yorkers?

Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation – IHME | COVID-19 Projections

Explore hospital bed use, need for intensive care beds, and ventilator use due to COVID-19 based on projected deaths for all 50 US states and District of Columbia

Paula Mullally: So what you’re telling me is that we’re all going to be working from home until June.

Dr. Allison Zhou (Senior Economic Consultant): Weather. Dr. Fauci may disagree, but I think weather matters. Our summer arrives earlier and more noticeably than any other states, which I think makes a difference. Only wish it would be drier. @paula.mullally Stay cool in our cocoons. We should be fine soon (wishfully ). I saw the!  

Jamie McClave Baldwin: I hadn’t seen ICU beds by region or per capita. In fact, I think much of what has been missing from the equation here is per capita and demographic breakdown. For example, China has a higher male to female ratio among adults than most other countries in the world. So we kept hearing that this affected men more than women, but was that a factor of the male:female ratio or was that real? Also USA deaths are pretty high but per capita are on the lower end of the spectrum. We keep hearing about NYC but isn’t that the MSA with the highest population density in the US? Show the a logistic regression with population density, sex, age, an indicator for whether the government has imposed shelter-in-place, what else? Maybe some economic measures? Per capita income? Might be too correlated with pop dens.

Jim McClave (Dr. Jim McClave – CEO, Founder, Econometric Expert): Might want to include ethnicity in the model. I saw stats this morning from Switzerland indicating a big range of death rates ranging from 0.6% for German speaking cantons (I admit I didn’t know what “cantons” were until Google informed me they are the 26 member states that comprise Switzerland) to 4.4% for Italian speaking cantons. Of course, there may be numerous confounding factors that explain the differences, as well as sample size deficiencies.

Ed See (Dr. Edward See – Senior Economic Analyst): I would look at the testing rate first. I suspect the reason why the US jumped other countries in the number of confirmed cases could be that the US is more aggressive in testing (less testing means less chance of getting positive cases).

Jamie McClave Baldwin: But are we testing aggressively? How do we know? I hear anecdotal stories all the time about people being turned away from testing. Also, with all of the various tests being put forth for COVID-19, anyone concerned about false negative or false positive rates? I haven’t been able to tell from the news what kind of testing they have done to assess the accuracy of the tests.

Ed See: Some countries are reporting that China supplied them with defective testing kits.

Jamie McClave Baldwin: @edward.see I hadn’t heard that. Interesting. I’m definitely concerned about the false negatives. If we are all supposed to act like we have it, the false negatives are not helping that behavior!

Jodie Newman (Jodie Newman – Director, Case Development): I have a running text chat with friends in Gainesville, several of whom are physicians. They say that the medical community is talking about the lack of really any data on false test results. 

Jodie Newman: I wonder whether there isn’t a relationship yet because physical distancing seems so subject to “cheating” — e.g., I am going to go out and run errands and it’s ok as long as I stay 6 ft from everyone. Maybe measuring rates of infection for those who followed “stay at home” vs. not. On the other hand, the rates of infection data is going to be impacted by the reality that many are not being tested — in my parents’ community, no testing unless you are ready for admission in the hospital or a healthcare prof.

Jamie McClave Baldwin: What originally got me thinking about data was the chart I saw on social distancing, as measured by the reduction in movement tracked by cell phones. They compared that reduction in movement to daily reported cases – and there was no obvious relationship yet. Got me thinking about how we might test that. How would we measure the effect of social distancing? How do you best measure social distancing in the first place? 

Janese Nix Did the analysis you saw take into account the variable time from exposure to symptoms to positive test? This can be as short as 1 day and as long as 24. Some models are working with a minimum of 5 day lag, but that time would be different as diagnosis and testing time and behaviors change. 

Jamie McClave Baldwin: There was no lag incorporated. I want to see some moving averages about both social distancing and number of cases. 

Erica Bloomberg-Johnson (Senior Case Analyst): Would be interesting to observe and analyze post COVID-19, the amount of research/innovation that occurred in that period of time. Instead of “What drives Winning,” it is “What drives Innovation.”

Janese Nix: We are seeing both increased collaboration even multicultural, and increased competition (the race for a faster test, effective treatment…). And open source innovation with abilities to add on and share.

Jamie McClave Baldwin: There was a hackathon in Switzerland (I think?) last weekend. 72 hours of global innovation around these questions.

Ed See: Not just innovation but also dedication to invest in pandemic virus vaccines. Pandemic virus vaccines may not be profitable for investors since pandemics are rare and no one invested in it. 

Ed See: On the shortage of ventilators:

“Government officials and executives at rival ventilator companies said they suspected that Covidien had acquired Newport to prevent it from building a cheaper product that would undermine Covidien’s profits from its existing ventilator business.” The U.S. Tried to Build a New Fleet of Ventilators. The Mission Failed.

As the coronavirus spreads, the collapse of the project helps explain America’s acute shortage.

Allison Zhou: UF researchers lead the way in rapidly designing, building low-cost, open-source ventilator As a University of Florida mechanical engineering student decades ago, Samsun Lampotang, Ph.D., helped respiratory therapist colleagues build a minimal-transport ventilator that became a commercial success.

Allison Zhou: Isn’t it cool? I feel so proud.

Erica Bloomberg-Johnson: I get articles from Wards after doing research for a previous case. Interesting article on how automakers are dedicating manufacturing support. WardsAuto article.pdf

Jamie McClave Baldwin: All of this talk, and not one of us has brought up the antitrust violations that are sure to come out of this or how to navigate the necessary coordination to defeat this thing. I predict we will have to add a COVID-19 effect into models spanning this time for the price effects this thing has had on nearly everything we purchase. A chat for another time, I suppose. Be well, my friends.