What numbers do Americans care most about right now? I would love to know the following:
- what percentage of people in the Boston area are already infected with coronavirus (settle the Oxford v. Imperial College debate)
- how close to being overwhelmed are local hospitals in terms of beds and ICU beds in case someone in our family is unlucky enough to need one?
We can’t get the first number because nobody will go out and do a test for active virus in a representative subset of Boston-area residents. This wouldn’t be complete because it wouldn’t measure people who were infected and are now over COVID-19, but if the number is only 0.1% then it is time for double-secret lockdown to stop the spread!
With the second number we could decide whether to drive for an hour or two to a less-busy region before dropping a sick person off at a hospital ED. This would avoid the situation that I’ve heard about from friends who work in health care in NYC. A hospital in one neighborhood is overflowing while a hospital two miles away has empty rooms.
The Florida state government isn’t doing anything about the first number, but they’re gathering and publishing data regarding the second. See “Coronavirus: Here’s how many hospital beds are available in Florida” for a map.
How about Massachusetts? We are a “data dumb” state in which this information is perhaps not available to anyone. Doctors affiliated with individual hospitals can get stats for their own hospital and my moles inside two of the biggest Boston hospitals say that they still have rooms and ICU beds available. This is contrary to the prophecies from University of Washington, We supposedly ran out of ICU beds in the state on March 27 and ran out of hospital beds today.
- “Online checkbook is one step in efforts to publicize state’s accounts” (Sarah Palin’s successful effort to make records of all state spending available online)