Coronavirus corrections, data sources, and issues.

This post is by Phil Price, not Andrew.

I’ve got a backlog of COVID-related stuff I’ve been meaning to post. I had intended to do a separate post about each of these, complete with citations and documentations, but the weeks are flying by and I’ve got to admit that that’s not going to happen. So you get this instead.

1. Alert the media: I made a mistake! Alex Gamma pointed out (a month and a half ago!) that I made a mistake in my plots of Years of Life Lost to coronavirus: I switched the labels of men and women. Alex wonders if the fact that this went unnoticed by me, or the dozens of commenters, is a reflection of people being used to the idea that women have it harder than men in just about everything, so seeing women supposedly being hit harder by COVID didn’t draw scrutiny. I don’t think that’s it — for one thing, we’re used to the fact that women live longer than men, so I think Alex’s proposal doesn’t fit here — but anyway I want to correct the record: there are more deaths, and more years of life lost, among men than among women.

2. Also in the “years of life lost” department, Konrad pointed out that in early May The Economist displayed some data showing the number of victims by age group, along with number of long-term health conditions, and years of life lost. There’s a lot of information in that graphic and I really appreciate the work that went into it. I wonder if there is some better way to display that information.

3. If you want to take a look at issues like the ones discussed above: Daniel Lakeland points out that number of COVID-19 deaths by sex, age group, and state is available from the US Department of Health. They’ve made some odd and slightly irritating choices in that datafile, e.g. the age groups aren’t all numeric (not even the first part of the string): there’s an “Under 1 year”. Why not 0-1, following the same pattern as the other age groups? Just adds one more pre-processing step if you want to do something like map these to actuarial tables. Speaking of which: expected years of life remaining, as a function of age and sex, is available from the Social Security Administration.

4. One issue I hope someone will take a look at — this means you! — is whether and how the distribution of deaths (and thus years of life lost) has changed with time. Daniel Lakeland suggested that we might expect this to change as the pandemic progresses, as vulnerable populations are better protected. One might expect that we will see fewer deaths per case, but with a lower percentage of deaths being those of the very old. Is this in fact happening?

This post is by Phil.