In journalism class, we learned that ‘if it bleeds, it leads.” We also learned that you write news copy so the important stuff goes at the beginning of the story so if it needs to be edited for length, the basic facts are still communicated to readers.
Given those two concepts, let’s look at this story published today by KOVR-TV in Sacramento.
COLUSA (CBS13) — During a press conference earlier this week, President Donald Trump stood in front of a U.S. map highlighting the nation’s coronavirus hotspots, including Colusa County.
“Whether it goes to the White House or not, it’s still a huge issue of concern for the community,” Colusa County Councilmember Marcos Kropf said.
The 22,000-person county has reached a positivity rate of 21% over a seven-day period.Colusa County Becomes COVID-19 Hotspot, Positivity Rate Jumps To 21%
If you read the story in its entirety, it contains four numbers—three of which are in one sentence, quoted above. Twenty-two thousand, seven, and twenty-one percent. Oh, the fourth number is nineteen as in Covid-19.
Setting aside, the nineteen in Covid-19, let’s do some math.
The story implies that in a seven day period, 21 percent of a county of 22,000 souls tested positive for Covid-19.
Thus 22,000 x 0.21 yields 4,620 caught the virus in a week.
Do you believe that? I hope not. Sadly, this is typical of “hard news” in today’s media.
Oh, remember what I said about the important stuff at the beginning of the story? Why are first two paragraphs about Donald Trump and the White House anyway? Is this a subliminal way of associating Trump with 21 percent being infected? Pelosi did call Covid-19 the Trump virus.
Nowhere in the story is an explanation of how many were tested, where, or why. Thus we have a text without context and as Dr. Martin used to say, this is often a pretext for error. Such is the case here.
The very last paragraph gives you slightly more information that confirms your suspicion that all the preceding numbers are bogus.
Colusa County says the majority of their cases are coming from family gatherings and an outbreak at a skilled nursing facility.
Thus the story ends with another whack at Fourth of July gatherings and warehousing the elderly as they await the arrival of the Grim Reaper. However, no actual, usable information was presented anywhere in this story.
The Rest of the Story
I, your intrepid blogger, dared to do what the paid media didn’t, I went to the Colusa County website to get it straight from the source. Before I present this shocking data, please I beg you, SIT DOWN AND HOLD ON.
Here’s what I learned:
The first death of a Colusa County resident related to COVID-19 has been confirmed. The death occurred on July 20, 2020…First COVID-19 Related Death in Colusa County Confirmed
Yep, the very first death occurred this week. We’ve been sheltering in place for four months now and the Reaper finally got his first elderly person.
But it gets even better. Remember our news story about 21 percent positive?
Here’s what the county says about their testing. Remember, this is the data from four months of intensive lab work. As of yesterday, 1,845 tests were administered—in four months!!!!!!! Oh, and 250 were positive.
Doing real math, 13 percent of those tests given by the county have been positive. This is not out of the whole county’s population but out of sick people tested. Also, we have no information on whether somebody received more than one test before getting a positive. Any bets that the people in the old folk’s home have had multiple tests? Yep, the county admits it.
Colusa County is announcing an outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) at a local Skilled Nursing Facility (nursing facility). At this time, pursuant to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), there are 30 confirmed active cases (16 residents and 14 staff). COVID-19 testing is still ongoing for all facility staff and residents.COLUSA COUNTY REPORTS COVID-19 OUTBREAK IN SKILLED NURSING FACILITY
If you want to know about folks getting multiple tests, here’s an example from our very own staff.
The Chief told me that a family friend was tested three times before coming up positive even after the guy was clearly sick for several days. Per his account, turning up positive is a lagging indicator. Chief’s friend had every symptom in the book prior to a positive result.
Oh, 250 divided by 22K yields an infection rate of 1.1 percent and two deaths in the county is a rate of .009 percent. If you factor out all the people locked-up in the old folk’s home, your chances are very good of seeing the next sunrise. Nevertheless, wanna bet Gavin uses stories like those from KOVR to justify shelter-in-place orders again? Wal-Mart is not the only guys with a reputation of rolling stuff back.