CDC recolors maps to declare victory

How to lie with numbers, Invisible Hand of Capitalism Edition! As far as I can tell, these two maps represent approximately the same data. The first one, which you've been seeing variants of for years, puts nearly every county in the Danger Zone. The second one is how CDC is coloring it today.

So if you had been thinking, "I'm going to avoid crowds until my county isn't SCORCHING RED", congratulations! CDC has solved that problem for you, without any of the underlying numbers having substantially changed!

And of course CDC is uninterested in talking about Long COVID at all.

As far as I can tell, the motivation here is:

"Federal, State and Local government functionaries, along with people in rural diners and lunatic Qanons, have decided that masking is over, and so we must make our guidance reflect the 'Personal Freedoms' that these idiots are going to do anyway."

The new "low" threshold is 2× the old "high" threshold.

So overnight we went from "Holy shit, the whole country is red, we are letting the virus rip, Omicron is going to kill us all" to... "It's fiiiiiiine, everybody get back to work, go to the mall, book a flight, so that we can put out some press releases about Strong Economic Growth so that we don't get slaughtered in the midterms."

[Narrator: they are going to get absolutely slaughtered in the midterms regardless.]


I say this seriously and it is not a contested statement: the new CDC guidance is predicated on the assumption that you are entirely okay with catching Covid and passing it on to others. If you are NOT okay with that, you're just a footnote in the new guidance.

The new CDC "Community Levels" determining when they do or don't recommend masks have virtually no connection to your risk of catching Covid; they're just about whether there's a decent chance you'll die specifically because local hospitals are full with your neighbors.


CDC says it's ok to unmask now because there's still local freezer truck morgue capacity available in your area.

To clarify: it's not entirely accurate to describe what CDC has done as "recoloring the map". They didn't just change the scale or the map key: they are actually measuring different data now.

That old map, the all-red map on the left, is a map of new infections per 100k people: it correlates well to your chance of exposure and infection. CDC's term for this is "Community Transmission".

The map on the right is the new one that they say we should be paying attention to instead: the "Community Levels" map, which is basically new infections DIVIDED BY available hospital beds. So COVID could be absolutely ripping through your community, but if you happen to have an excess of ICU capacity, that map is going to be green and tell you "you're golden, go eat at indoor restaurants and don't worry about it."

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11 Responses:

  1. sleepdedication says:

    at this point i think they're just trying to jack up the bodycount so they can get slaughtered in the midterms even worse. they actively want to lose. (goes without saying that nobody against mask mandates is going to vote blue anyway, but there are plenty of blue voters who will be repulsed by these moves and their consequences)

    • MattyJ says:

      Seems like the strategy is to accelerate natural selection and hope that the red end of the death spiral starts to drag enough blue into it to even things out.

    • Elusis says:

      at this point i think they're just trying to jack up the bodycount so they can get slaughtered in the midterms even worse

  2. Jim says:

    This is the biggest reason why other than the almighty dollar; I'm completely aware that this is throwing the immunocompromised under the bus:

    (Not actually a GIF, flattened in time into its two images.)

    • Jay says:

      Which seasonal flu? There is more than an order of magnitude of difference between different strands of seasonal flu, and the mortality profile also changes (some are relatively more deadly to older people, while others are relatively more deadly to younger people). Is that an average? Weighted average? A worst case? A best case? Also, how does infectivity in seasonal flu compare to covid19? Because 1% of 1M people is still 100x worse than 10% of 1k people.

      What I'm trying to say is: those graphs are meaningless as they are, they are missing a lot of relevant context to interpret them. A more paranoid person would wonder if that's on purpose.

      But the most important missing data point (imho) is, how does long flu compare to long covid? Asking for a friend (healthy, in his thirties) who caught it close to the end of the delta wave and who is still suffering from brain fog with no signs of improvement.

      We don't know anything about covid19, but we do know it's not a flu. Data about long term consequences is not clear yet, but it's pointing in the wrong direction.

    • haltiamreptar says:

      Loving also the use of the log scale to distort the gaps.

  3. Igelau says:

    Reverse psychology. If the CDC says everything is fine, the anti-vaxxers should be lining up in socially-distanced droves to get their shot.

  4. Ian says:

    To borrow a Woody Allen joke about the NRA, the CDC - and governments around the West - have declared death to be a good thing.

  5. genewitch says:

    your xscreensaver post was great; but i wanted to say that i haven't not worn a mask in public for 2 years this week! I see a half dozen or more people talking about getting together and i avoid all of them for a month.

    I think a decent amount of people have been prepping for this sort of situation (a year or two in isolation from the broad public), but most of those decided this didn't qualify. It's too bad, really.

    This input box is silky and delicious. wish i could code an input box like this...


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