Virus Rate Fell to 2% From 34% in One Area. But Did Anything Change?

New piece about the Hasidic community in the New York Times

When my former Hasidic community had a 34% positive rate, I tried to explain that the metric is not reliable. Since this community has very different customs and they aren’t busy with covid, they also aren’t testing unless someone is very sick. No one wanted to hear that the impressive 34% wasn’t gospel, and so, the community was placed in lockdown. (And they gave it the middle finger.)

Now the community has a 2% positivity rate. And the county health commissioner is besides herself. The metric has been discovered to be unreliable.

How does she know?

“To go from a 34 percent positivity rate down to a 4 percent positivity rate when the “micro-cluster/ hot zone” schools did not actually shut down — and just converted to “child care”— is something many people here are skeptical about,” Dr. Gelman said in an email, citing an infection rate that then dropped to 2 percent.

Well, if you know that:

  • a. huge schools didn’t close and
  • b. rates went down
  • then does it maybe follow that closing schools is not a useful intervention???

No. Our experts can only see that if the rates went down, then the infection rate didn’t really go down. And so, the positivity rate is discovered to be an unreliable metric. (It remains reliable for the 34%)

the positivity rate has become the de facto gold standard of publicly highlighted measures […] The course of events in Orange County has raised deep suspicions among some health experts about the reliability of the data, reflecting broader concerns about whether top officials in New York and around the country are tracking the outbreak in ways that may not accurately capture how much the virus is spreading.

So if positivity rates are not good anymore, then what?

Health officials want to find clusters based on interviews with doctors, contact tracing and more variables. In other words, if they haBe their way it would become ever easier to order top down shutdowns without any transparency. For now, Cuomo is rebuffing them.

PS: Notice that the shopping mall pictured has a giant orange banner that says “Shop Local. Save Lives.”

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