Derek Thompson+ Your Authors @DKThomp Writer at @TheAtlantic. Host of podcast CRAZY/GENIUS. Author of book HIT MAKERS. Talker on NPR's @hereandnow and @CBSNews. derek[at]theatlantic[dot]com Mar. 26, 2020 1 min read + Your Authors

We're in a eerie, early phase of the pandemic where the sheer number of statistics gives the illusion of total information.

But most of our data is still flawed or incomplete in critical ways, which makes it easy for bad-faith actors to mislead us. 

Start with initial claims.

Today's figure—3.2 million—is a big, scary number. It's also surely downplaying the severity of job losses last week. And in a sudden-stop recession, where govts have purposefully shut down businesses, it's weirdly a number we should "hope" rises.

The March jobs report next week will be more incomplete:

The BLS (which does great work) conducts its payroll surveys the week of the 12th. March 12 was two weeks ago—a completely different world than the second half of the month. It will be a weirdly uninformative report.

The lesson extends to the public health data.

It's still too early to know to what degree the exponential rise in confirmed cases—both nationally, and state-by-state—is the result of a huge increase in tests, an ongoing exponential outbreak, or (in many cases) both.

We'll learn more about this disease's human and economic impact soon.

But in the short run, we are waging war in the fog of pandemic. We have to be patient and careful about interpreting the flood of incoming data. 

Coda #1

Coda #2

#3 (via @AlanMCole)


You can follow @DKThomp.


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