Liberal Arts Blog — Covid Data

Liberal Arts Blog — Monday is the Joy of Math, Statistics, Shapes, and Numbers Day

Today’s topic: Covid Data. Separating wheat from chaff, deciding who should get the vaccine first and more

So many numbers. So many agendas. So many decisions. So little time. Are we focusing on the right Covid data? Are we over-reacting? Under-reacting? How would we know? Who is to say? Who should get the vaccine first? Why? How close are we to “herd immunity”? Should we go to the super market or just get the stuff delivered? What numbers are we focusing on? What numbers should we be focusing on? Today excerpts from a related article by Holman Jenkins. What is the best article you have read on the topic? Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.


1. “Unlike other countries, the US has been strangely resolute in pretending that “confirmed cases” are the measure of the epidemic.”

2. “Seldom has there been a clearer test of how the media sets the agenda for politicians. The press repeats this misleading statistic a thousand times a day to no real purpose, leaving us only less certain where we stand in the herd-immunity race.”

3. “Underplaying the disease’s true prevalence, we have (without realizing it) conditioned people to be less careful even as we preach at them to be more careful. We cause them to underestimate their exposure risk and overestimate their death risk.”

NB “Now we’ve put ourselves in the weird position of being unready to use vaccines optimally to stop the epidemic as soon as possible We find it hard even to admit to ourselves that natural immunity is helping bring our goal within reach.”


1. Which means efforts to avoid transmission (eg. mask wearing, social distancing) should be redoubled.

2. But instead “many people already find the current level of diligence unsustainable or not worth their effort.”

3. “Millions who know better than ever now that most cases are mild or symptomless seem to be telling themselves, with the elderly being vaccinated, their own job is done.”


1. “Though scientists aren’t sure whether natural or artificial vaccination confers better immunity, they’re pretty sure the natural kind will prove more robust against evolution because it responds to a broader diversity of virus features.”

2. “Also hurting is the likelihood that one third of people soon to be lining up will already have been vaccinated by nature, many of them not knowing it.”

3. “Herd immunity” was a taboo term when paired with the word “strategy” but needs to be rehabilitated now as a description of the goal that both vaccine and natural spread are helping us achieve.”

NB: “The US will soon reliably be vaccinating a million people a day but natural infections, by conservative estimate, were already putting a million a day in the US on the path to natural immunity though only a fifth of them showed up for testing.”

Opinion | Maximize the Vaccine

Click here for the last three years of posts arranged by theme:

PDF with headlines — Google Drive


So what are your personal favorite magic numbers? What do they stand for? Please share the coolest thing you learned this week related to math, statistics, or numbers in general. Or, even better, the coolest or most important thing you learned in your life related to math.

This is your chance to make someone else’s day. And to consolidate in your memory something you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something dearto your heart. Continuity is key to depth of thought.


Passionate about education, thinking citizenship, art, and passing bits on of wisdom of a long lifetime.

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John Muresianu

Passionate about education, thinking citizenship, art, and passing bits on of wisdom of a long lifetime.