Evidence-Free Zone: Nonsense Claims about Superiority of US Coronavirus Response

The following image shows per-capita coronavirus case counts for the US, Canada and Mexico. These per-capita rates are proportional to population size. This image was obtained from the Weather Channel mapping utility on September 27, 2020.

Let’s juxtapose that map against a few claims over the past month by Trump (here and here):

We’ve done a great job in Covid but we don’t get the credit. (August 31)

We’ve possibly done the best job.” (September 10)

I think that we’ve probably done the best job of any country. (September 10)

We’ve done a phenomenal job. Not just a good job, a phenomenal job. (September 21)

Other than public relations, but that’s because I have fake news. On public relations, I give myself a D… On the job itself, we take an A-plus. (September 21)

It’s one thing to make these claims when you are at least dominating your hemisphere. But a glimpse at our next door neighbors shows we aren’t even the best on our block.

These are Empty, Faith-Based Claims

Trump supporters seem to repeat the claims that Trump has done a good job with a hard situation. I would suggest that they parrot the president’s talking points because they have been conditioned to do so. These claims arrive without supporting evidence.

We can state it more precisely than that: these claims are not unambiguously supported by the overall body of evidence we have. Those who weigh evidence for a living look at the whole body of evidence, not the cherry-picked bits that support their viewpoint. Big-boy rules.

Trump supporters tend to howl about case rates being high, mainly because they have been trained to howl about them. That’s OK. There are multiple lines of evidence, not one: COVID case rates, COVID death rates, and excess death rates. All three measures tell the same story. We have a lot more COVID cases here. We have a lot more COVID deaths here. We have a high excess death rate, which indicates that our COVID death count is actually on the low side — perhaps 30%. (Data from people who know their data: here. Brief summary of other stats at bottom of post)

Because there are multiple lines of evidence, Trumper’s claims are hemmed in pretty well. But that isn’t the point. The point is that the burden of proof is on Trump and Trumpers to support their claims, not on everyone else to triangulate them back into reality.

Readers are invited to consider my earlier post on faith-based claims.

  • These claims are from belief — Trump in himself, and Trumpers in their leader — and not from proof or unambiguous supporting evidence.
  • These claims are are not open to revision, even when contrary evidence exists.

To the extent that Trumpers argue with the many lines of data, they merely prove that their claims are points of dogma, not critical thinking. Thinkers want to see the evidence, all of it. Thinkers want to square their own positions with the evidence. Big-boy rules. Believers persistently try to dodge evidence they do not like. And they point to their leader for authority instead. Children’s rules.

The US could have done far better. Just look at our neighbor to the north. Had we done as well as Canada, 120,000 Americans would still be alive (3/5 of our overall fatalities). That bears repeating: One Hundred Twenty Thousand Americans.

If you are a Trump supporter that wants to parrot Trump’s claims that the response in the US is as good as it gets, you should know: the burden of proof falls on you to support it. No excuses, no kiddie rules. If you are saying that you know better than the life-long pandemic specialists at Johns Hopkins University, you better be bringing it. Big-boy rules. You must show that the overall body of evidence proves that the US is the best. No free lunch. That would be socialism. It might even be Canadian.

A few further stats on Canada vs the US:

  • Canada tests per capita are about 1/2 that of America (186K vs 313K per 1M people). But their case rate is 1/5 of ours (4K vs 22K per 1M people).
  • Canada death rate per capita is about 2/5 that of America (245 vs 632 per 1M people).

And a bottom line stat about the US:

  • The United States accounts for less than 5% of the world’s population, but more than 20% of the deaths reported during the pandemic worldwide have occurred in the U.S. 

Comments

  1. I like your lines: “Believers persistently try to dodge evidence they do not like. And they point to their leader for authority instead.”
    It reminds me of lines from Tim Minchin’s beat poem, Storm:
    “Science adjusts its views based on what’s observed.
    Faith is the denial of observation so that
    Belief can be preserved.”

    Liked by 1 person

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