On the back of a dollar bill and our license plate we see “In God We Trust.” But these days our lives are controlled and guided by the COVID-19 data. The data is fed into predictive models to forecast a range of outcomes. Among them are infections and deaths.
Cone of Uncertainty
Similar to a hurricane spaghetti model forecasting, as time passes more data is collected and the cone of uncertainty shrinks until the Weather Channel knows where to be to film landfall.
Our current shelter in place lifestyle is a direct result of predictions based on models. Flatten the curve is the rallying cry. Fewer interactions with people outside our inner circle will result in fewer sick people, less strain on the health system and fewer deaths from the virus and others causes because of the health system. This is sound logic.
Sound Logic with Faulty Data?
Last Thursday’s (3/26/20) remarks by Dr. Birx presented facts that will be discussed over the next week and will impact our lives soon thereafter. This is a summary of what she said.
Cases Are Not Spread Equally
40% of the states have extraordinarily low numbers of cases, even though they had an early onset of cases and have been testing.
55% of all cases and 55% of new cases originate in the NY/NJ metro area excluding CT.
Those Tested are Overwhelmingly Negative
Of the 550,000 people tested and presented with significant symptoms 86% have tested negative.
Forecast Models are a Work-In-Progress
UK Model published by Imperial College in London has a forecast model that ranges in 20,000 to 500,000 in the UK. That is a cone of uncertainty that will be tightening as time passes.
We Do Know This
The models presume a large group of people who show no symptoms but are still carriers and transmitters. People are testing positive with no symptoms. But not in the quantity the model presumes. Dr. Birx presents two explanations, first there is a large group of undiscovered asymptomatic people amongst us that will be discovered by an antibody test (a work-in-progress).
Her 2nd alternative is that the model has the transmission rate completely wrong. This asymptomatic group doesn’t exist. She supports this alternative with the following quotes:
1 – “the predictions of the models don’t match the reality on the ground in either China, South Korea, or Italy.”
2 – “So when people start talking about 20 percent of a population getting infected, it’s very scary. But we don’t have the data that matches that, based on experience.”
Ending Shelter in Place
One thing is clear data and models drove the decision for us to shelter in place and will release us when the time is right.
Rick Wright is the co-author of Retire Abundantly, creator of the “Retire the Wright Way” process, and founder/owner of Coastal Tax Centers, RL Wright & Associates, and Wright Advisory Group. The information in this article is based on the transcription of the 3.26.20 remarks from the President and the Coronavirus Task Force, pages 29-32. If you would like a full copy, email Rick at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is Rick Wright and I’m the owner of Coastal Tax Centers, R.L. Wright & Associates, and Wright Advisory Group. Although this is not a time for me to talk about those services, it does reflect the information we’re providing to our investment, tax, and insurance clients regarding their retirement income planning plans. By means of disclosure in our heavily regulated world, nothing that I am saying shall be taken as investment, tax, or insurance advice and you should consult your own investment, tax, or insurance professional before taking any action on these words. For additional information, always feel free to call us at 912-598-2073.