By Patrick Colbeck
In a September 17th article by Sarah Rahal of the Detroit News, Sarah used statistics to paint the COVID-19 response record of Governor Noem in a negative light. Specifically, she stated the following:
“South Dakota has 2,615 active cases and 193 deaths from COVID-19. The state has had a total of 17,686 cases from 171,523 people tested in a population of 880,000, meaning about of 2% of the state’s residents have gotten the virus. In comparison, Michigan has nearly 10 million people in the state, has conducted 3.5 million tests and recorded 114,692 cases and 6,631 deaths, meaning about 1.1% of residents got the virus.”
The data she presented appears to be consistent with the best data available on the topic, however, her focus upon the number of cases would give readers the false impression that Governor Noem’s policies were almost twice as harmful as the policies adopted by Governor Whitmer in Michigan.
An alternative way of presenting the same information would be:
“South Dakota has had a total of 193 deaths in a population of 880,000 from COVID-19, meaning about 0.02% of the state’s residents have died from the virus. In comparison, Michigan has nearly 10 million people in the state, has had 6,631 deaths from COVI-19, meaning about 0.06% of residents have died from the virus.”
If the article were to focus upon the number of fatalities rather than the number of cases, it is clear that Governor Noem’s policies were three times MORE effective than Governor Whitmer’s policies. I would argue that the number of deaths is more important than the number of cases. Why would Sarah Rahal emphasize the number of cases rather than the number of deaths? The number of cases is dependent upon the number of tests. People who are not feeling ill, would have no reason to get tested.
The bottom line is that Governor Noem had the same information and attended the same national briefings as Governor Whitmer. Governor Noem chose to keep her state open. Governor Noem made the decision to obey her constitutional constraints. She trusted her citizens. She kept her businesses open. She didn’t identify some businesses as essential and others as non-essential. She kept her schools open. Governor Whitmer did the opposite. As a result, South Dakota had fatality rate three times lower than Michigan…and Governor Noem’s policies didn’t kill their economy unlike what Governor Whitmer’s policies did to Michigan’s economy.
When it comes to evaluating COVID-19 policy responses, I would submit that tracking the number of people who die is much more pertinent than the number of cases.
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