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How Virus Data Can Mislead

2020-05-18 10:32:06

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Life in New York City felt pretty normal in early March. Children were going to school. Restaurants and theaters were packed. On March 9, I recorded a podcast in front of a few hundred people in Times Square.

In hindsight, we know that the coronavirus was then sweeping across the city. Deaths peaked in early to mid-April. And the typical time from contraction to death is from three to five weeks, according to my colleague Apoorva Mandavilli — which suggests early March was near the peak for transmission.

With more parts of the U.S. starting to reopen, many people will be tempted to look at the data this week and start proclaiming victory over the virus. But this week’s data won’t tell us much. It will instead reflect the reality from early May and late April, when much of the country was still on lockdown.

Either way, I’d encourage you not to leap to premature conclusions.

In other virus developments:

The Times’s Michael Wines explains that the plan was made possible by a 2018 federal court ruling that, for the first time in nearly four decades, allowed Republicans to mount campaigns against purported voter fraud without court approval. Courts had previously banned such campaigns, after finding instances of Republicans intimidating minority voters.

“He delivers narratives that are irresistibly cinematic,” Ben writes, “and often omits the complicating facts and inconvenient details that may make them less dramatic.”

David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, defended Farrow’s reporting and said the magazine was “proud to publish him.” Farrow said he brought “caution, rigor, and nuance” to each of his stories.

The New York Times article heralding Amelia Earhart as the first woman to fly a solo, uninterrupted trip across the Atlantic Ocean referred to her as “Mrs. Putnam,” because she was married to George Palmer Putnam. Only after she wrote a letter to the publisher at the time, Arthur Hays Sulzberger, did The Times begin using her “professional name.”

After Veronica Chambers and Amisha Padnani, two editors here, came across that story, they decided to dig into the paper’s history of calling women by their husbands’ names — like “Mrs. Diego Rivera” (Frida Kahlo) and “Mrs. Martin Luther King Jr.” (Coretta Scott King).

One concert moved an onlooker to tears: “I didn’t know if she was sad, maybe thinking of someone she had lost, or she was happy because of the music,” a bassoonist said.

The final episodes of “The Last Dance,” ESPN’s hit documentary about Michael Jordan and the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls, aired last night. So it’s a good time to put Jordan in some historical perspective.

That 1997-98 season capped the most successful stretch that any athlete in the three biggest American pro sports leagues has had over the past half-century. Jordan and his co-star Scottie Pippen won six championships in eight seasons (one of which Jordan took off).

By comparison, Tom Brady won six titles over an 18-year span in football, while Derek Jeter won five titles in 14 years in baseball. Here are some of the other great runs since 1970:

You can see today’s print front page here.

Today’s episode of “The Daily” is about the cost of restarting the economy.

Lauren Leatherby, Ian Prasad Philbrick and Sanam Yar contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at [email protected].


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