How COVID counting errors happen – a Facebook response

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I’ve again been engaged in debating with people who are opposing Governor Polis’ anti-COVID policies on his Facebook page. This is a response I wrote to a woman who said “Once you catch them stacking the death rate like that you can’t trust anything they say.”

You are assuming malicious intent on the part of scientists and failing to consider alternative explanations.

First, everyone makes mistakes, and the more pressure people are under, the more mistakes they’re going to make. Correcting mistakes is part of why the Colorado COVID data is still bouncing around a little for dates back in April.

Second, we continue to learn more about COVID and our tests continue to improve. If there were suspected cases that couldn’t be proven in April because the tests were only 90% accurate but could be rechecked today with a test that is 99% accurate, then a retest could turn up cases that were only suspected, not proven. Those should be added to the count of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, shouldn’t they?

Third, every test has both false positives and false negatives. It is inevitable that some cases will be misidentified, with positive tests being reversed later and with negative tests also being corrected. We should update the data when this happens too.

Fourth, if I have a heart attack due to a clot that occurred because I had COVID, did I die of a heart attack or of COVID? The answer is both, but since I would still be alive if I’d not caught COVID, my death should be reported as a COVID death.

The public health professionals tracking the COVID data are doing their best. Please don’t assume that they’re fudging the data without actual proof of intent to deceive.

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