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Clear data, not hysteria, should rule decisions

When is the last time you read a headline in the Albuquerque Journal about a fender bender or a flat tire? Imagine if these incidents were repeatedly lumped in with serious accidents involving totaled cars, hospitalizations and highway deaths.

That is, in effect, what the daily coronavirus case count can be compared to. Some days in somber tones, some days with morbid exuberance – “NM 467 new cases shatter single day record.”

We read with horror and fascination. But have you ever wondered how many of those “cases” will have no symptoms? How many of those cases will have mild symptoms? …

The Albuquerque Journal has no idea regarding these questions, it does not even bother making an estimation based on scientific data. Therefore can it be considered a useful metric in making decisions that can bankrupt business owners or deny your child an education?

On April 15 the CDC recommended states start reporting “probable” COVID-19 cases. That means if you exhibit symptoms but still test negative, or don’t test at all, you are counted as a COVID case.

In June, the waters were further muddied when positive antibodies were also added to the positive case counts. Yes, that means if you had coronavirus in April, didn’t know it and fully “recovered” you would still be considered positive if you have antibodies in late July. This makes the case count impossible to understand and sadly exploitable.

My fellow New Mexicans, this has certainly been a sad and shocking time in our state. I have a mother with dementia in a care facility in Iowa so I in no way want to minimize those who are mourning the death of a loved one, the danger to our residents in care facilities and those with health conditions that make them vulnerable.

That being said, the reporting on this issue has been hysteria-inducing. The governor has then made use of that fear to take away your right to educate your child, pray in your church, hold a funeral for your loved one and operate your business in a way that you see fit.

I can only describe what I see here as a mass case of Stockholm syndrome. “We will not question or challenge the governor, she will keep us safe.” This has happened wittingly or unwittingly with “data” reported by this newspaper.

The situation will not improve until our press begins to grapple, research and investigate this issue and meaningfully inform the public. Informing the public involves more than … regurgitating an obscure number with various degrees of hysteria each day. Focusing on metrics that truly matter … would go a long way to solve this problem.

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