COVID-19 Update: Knowns and Unknowns

Highlights from today’s data dump of Virginia COVID-19 data:

Total number of tests: 303,430
Total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases: 43,611
Percentage of tests that turned out positive: 14.3%

Total hospitalizations: 4,601
Percentage of confirmed cases that require hospitalization: 10.5%
Percentage of COVID-19 cases, known and unknown, requiring hospitalization: no one knows — but smaller than 10.5%.

Total deaths: 1,370
Deaths as percentage of confirmed cases: 1.1%
Percentage of COVID-19 cases, known and unknown, ending in death: No one knows, but smaller than 1.1%.


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27 responses to “COVID-19 Update: Knowns and Unknowns”

  1. LarrytheG Avatar

    Percent of random tests to asymptomatic that were positive = ???

    1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      I doubt if there are truly random tests. In addition to testing those with symptoms, many places are providing tests upon request. This is a self-selected sample, those who want to know and are willing to pay for the test, or who have insurance.

      Even with those limitations, I doubt if the state is identifying which tests are for those with symptoms and which are test for people who request them.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Well, I hope the state is but apparently for a while they were actually mixing virus testing with antibody testing…

        I get the impression that VDH and a lot of their counterparts in other states never had a real regime for testing and contact tracing. It was all a fairly manual process not at all of the scope and scale of COVID19..

        if they just tested those who were identified from contact tracing… they would know a lot more…

        But the data, if captured and properly categorized could yield much more information about the extent of the virus and much quicker heads up on trending.. than waiting for hospitalizations…

  2. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    The prevalence testing now being conducted by DOC in those prisons in which no inmates had shown symptoms is beginning to show results, as would be expected. The most recent DOC report shows positive cases at Fluvanna Correctional Center, the largest state prison for women. This is the first time that the report has shown positive cases in that facility. Currently, there are only 8 cases, but I expect that number to grow and additional prisons to show up on the report for the first time.

    DOC has reported another death, bringing the total to 7.

    Not surprisingly, the highest incidence of positive cases has been in those prisons that are dormitory facilities. Dillwyn leads the list with 325 positive cases, about 36 percent of the population. Next is Haynesville with 246 positives, about 27 percent of the population. Central Virginia and Harrisonburg had 57 and 26, respectively. These are not large absolute numbers, but these are small facilities. At the Central Virginia Correctional Unit, about 31 percent of its population tested positive, while at the Harrisonburg community residential facility, the positive rate was 51 percent.

    Here is the cumulative report:

    Summary of COVID-19 Cases in Va. Dept. of Corrections
    As of 9:00 a.m., May 29

    Cumulative testing positive 1,189
    Total Deaths 7
    Active positive cases in facilities 549
    Number in hospital 11
    Recovered 622
    Staff currently tested positive 138

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      re: Cumulative testing positive 1,189

      that’s out of how many that were tested?

      1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
        Dick Hall-Sizemore

        According to a May 27 news release, “more than 11,000” had been tested. So, that would translate to about a 10 percent positive rate.

        1. Nancy_Naive Avatar

          Active virus tests? Or, serology tests? Sadly, it makes a BIG difference.

  3. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    Dr. Oz’s column in this morning’s RTD: 95% of patients in an ICU for COVID are 80 years or older AND/OR were obese, hypertensive, Type 2 diabetic, asthmatic or had some other respiratory condition, were immune suppressed, etc. He went on to make his usual points about diet and exercise. Buried back on the bottom of an inner page, of course….the message nobody wants to hear.

    1. Nancy_Naive Avatar

      Dr Oz? The Dr. Oz has a column in th RTD? No wonder Richmond ranks so low on the information/education measures. Maybe we should move the capital to, oh say, NOVA? Smart government from smart people.

    2. LarrytheG Avatar

      The reality is that people who do have health insurance will visit the doctor more regularily, have physical, get blood work for lipids and glucose, etc and then get treated and have their disease managed.

      People without health insurance don’t do that and their underlying conditions often progress without treatment or management.

      It’s easy for those that have insurance to talk about those who have bad health habits but the truth is – and the demographics show it – underlying disease spans the demographics – people with wealth also are obese and have diabetes.. but their disease is treated and managed.

    3. LarrytheG Avatar

      Those that believe that only old people are affected are not dealing with the realities like this:

      ” Virus closes popular Chick-fil-A in Fredericksburg’s Central Park”

      A bunch of people unemployed and thousands of dollars in lost sales plus other costs like disinfection…

      ” Instead of vehicles wrapped around the building at the Central Park Chick-fil-A, orange cones blocked the drive-thru Friday night and Saturday, and signs explained the business was temporarily closed “to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.”

      On Tuesday, the store’s management told employees that a team member had tested positive for COVID-19. The announcement was shared with The Free Lance–Star and stated that owner Todd Fleming and the Rappahannock Area Health District recommended that anyone who was exposed should self-quarantine for 14 days.

      Various Facebook posts showed the darkened business and empty parking lot—and claimed that four to six workers had been sickened by the novel coronavirus. The Virginia Department of Health considers two cases or more involving the same person, place or time an outbreak—and mandates they be reported.”

      1. Steve Haner Avatar
        Steve Haner

        And yet, did anybody die? Or even end up in the ICU? You describe the effect of panic, which you and Nancy Boy and others seem to enjoy spreading….would a store close if three or four workers got flu? No. Meningitis? Maybe. Probably the best comparison would be norovirus, which makes you very sick but is not seen as a lethal threat. That probably would close a store. Catching norovirus at a drive through is more likely than COVID, by a country mile.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          No one died. Probably no one ended up in an ICU and not likely that that the management of Chick-fil-A “panicked” no more or less than the meatpacking plants have closed out of “panic”.

          The problem is that COVID19 is a disease that infects people and kills people – not just the old – but younger people who do have health conditions but are also very much in the workforce.

          We may be moving to a society where only the young and those older without underlying conditions can get a job… and those who have underlying conditions get classified as “disabled” and eligible for entitlements, eh?

          So, from now on, on the employment application, it will not only want your age but a list of your medical conditions?

  4. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    I read Jim Bacon’s post here as satire. His “Knows and Unknowns” as “Highlights from today’s data dump of Virginia COVID-19 data,” tell that tale.

    In truth: The only number that counts are “Total deaths: 1,370.” God bless their souls.

    But even this number is unreliable as to cause of death. As Steve notes above, “Dr. Oz’s column in this morning’s RTD: 95% of patients in an ICU for COVID are 80 years or older AND/OR were obese, hypertensive, Type 2 diabetic, asthmatic or had some other respiratory condition, were immune suppressed, etc.”

    In addition, even this truth is overwhelmed by the death of a particular living person, particularly if that death could have been avoid, or if that death now is dealt with in a dishonest way to cover up or for political advantage. And that is precisely what most of these remainder numbers really are intended for in addition to being highly misleading, in my view. Everyone should know that by now.

    Take for example this:
    “Deaths as percentage of confirmed cases: 1.1%
    Percentage of COVID-19 cases, known and unknown, ending in death: No one knows, but SMALLER than 1.1%.”

    Really? Or might the truth be that the right number here is no where remotely close to 1.1% 1 per 100 and that number is far more likely to be somewhere between 1 to 5 per 1000 to 1 – 5 per 10,000, or less.

    With regard to the relatively few people who are honest, serious and know what they are talking about in these matters, see Professor Sunetra Gupta of Oxford University here:

    1. Steve Haner Avatar
      Steve Haner

      That woman is clearly a Trump-drunk dreamer. The science is settled, Reed! Six lashes with a wet noodle for challenging What We All Know Is True!

      1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
        Reed Fawell 3rd

        Exactly, Steve – What a pity that Virginia lacks a world class university like Oxford with its professors of the caliber of Sunetra Gupta, who solve real problems and build real knowledge that makes a better world.

        Instead, Virginia has to UVa. with its evil child professors famous for incubating the toxic virus that first ravaged their hometown of C’ville and now has spread across our entire nation, setting cities afire, starting with Minneapolis / Saint Paul, all in the name of the University of Virginia’s brand of social justice.

      2. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
        Reed Fawell 3rd

        Here is one reason why I believe this gross misstatement by Virginia’s state government is intentional. Here is statement.

        Take for example this:
        “Deaths as percentage of confirmed cases: 1.1%’

        Here are facts:

        “How Lethal Is COVID-19 For The Young And Healthy? Military Ships Offer Case Study
        June 1, 2020 By Maclen Stanley,

        …news of the Theodore Roosevelt has largely faded, with hardly anyone acknowledging the most important part about the COVID-19 outbreak: More than 1,100 sailors were infected, and only one died …

        The Theodore Roosevelt has now returned to sea, and the final data offered by the Navy remains at 1,102 cases, with only one reported death. … 41-year-old Chief Petty Officer Charles Robert Thacker Jr. … Doing some simple math, COVID-19 aboard the Theodore Roosevelt had a death rate of 0.09 percent, while the estimated death rate for the seasonal flu is 0.1 percent.

        … A similarly low death rate has been seen on France’s Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, where more than 1,000 sailors contracted the virus but zero died. These death rates are even lower than estimates in a new CDC report, which estimates the death rate for people under 50 years old at only 0.05 percent…

        We have long known that the Wuhan virus primarily affects elderly people, particularly those with underlying health conditions. For example, 81 percent of coronavirus deaths in Minnesota have occurred in nursing homes or assisted-care facilities. In Denmark, the median age of death is about 82 years old.

        General population-based data suggests that young populations tend to fare well, with only 14 people between 20 and 29 years old dying from COVID-19 in Italy, an early hotspot. … End Quote;

        For more truth, please see:

        Hence, the accuracy of my statement several comments above that:

        “Take for example this:
        “Deaths as percentage of confirmed cases: 1.1%
        Percentage of COVID-19 cases, known and unknown, ending in death: No one knows, but SMALLER than 1.1%.”

        Really? Or might the truth be that the right number here is no where remotely close to 1.1% 1 per 100 and that number is far more likely to be somewhere between 1 to 5 per 1000 to 1 – 5 per 10,000, or less. ”

        This is why Virginia citizens can no longer can depend on being told the truth by Virginia State officials.

  5. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    I have listened to the interview with Prof. Gupta. She is a thoughtful and cautious professional. I did not find her thinking to be overly contrary to what is actually happening. She stated that, at the time lockdowns were instated, both models (Ferguson’s and the one produced by her institution) were “compatible with the data”. After the passage of time, it was clear that the number of deaths was lower than projected by Ferguson and she stated that could have been due to the lockdown (which Ferguson did not include in his model).

    Although scientists are not in total agreement, she thinks that the pathogen was present in the population at least a month before society was aware of it. If true, that would indicate a stronger resistance than Ferguson and other modelers assumed. However, to test that theory, one would need to conduct extensive serological or antibody tests and she states that most such tests are unreliable at this time.

    Her conclusion, given what we now know about what populations are most vulnerable to the coronavirus, is that we should end the lockdown faster than is now occuring because great harm is being done, both to the vulnerable and society as a whole.

    Here is how this situation shapes up for me. The world was faced suddenly with an unknown, lethal disease. Lots of people were dying in China, where it originated. Then a lot of people were getting sick in Italy and lots dying there, as well. Soon enough, it popped up in the United States. This pathogen was different in important ways from previous coronaviruses, primarily in ease of transmission. It was different, also, from the flu virus, from which people also die. And, unlike the flu virus, there was no vaccine or treatment for this novel coronavirus.

    At the beginning, it seemed as if anyone was vulnerable. Probably most frightening was the discovery that many people could be infected with the virus and experience no symptoms, but still be transmitters. It was not known what percentage of the population that could be, but early data from China and other countries suggested that it could be as high as 25 percent. Finally, the death rate of those with active symptoms was uncertain.

    Faced with a highly contagious pathogen that could be lethal and that could be spread by persons showing no symptoms and for which there was no vaccine or treatment, medical experts advised the best way of mitigating the disease would be to spread the population out and minimize contact. Hence, policymakers instituted social distancing and ordered many businesses and other venues, in which people congregated, closed.

    Now, three months or so after COVID-19 became the primary issue facing the country, more than 100,000 persons in the country have died of the disease, almost 1,400 of those in Virginia. The economic damage has been huge: millions unemployed; businesses shuttered, some for good; sports, musical, cultural events and venues cancelled or closed; trillions of dollars of tax money appropriated to attack the virus itself and to mitigate the economic effects of it.

    Has the economic sacrifice been worth it? Did social distancing and lockdowns save lives? More than likely, fewer people died as a result. How many fewer? There is no way of knowing or determining. A case can be made that, from a cost-benefit perspective, the benefits of the lockdown significantly outweighed its costs, at least on a national scale.

    We have learned a lot about this virus. There is probably a lot we still do not know. It seems that certain populations are more vulnerable than others: older persons; those with other chronic health conditions, such as obesity and diabetes; and minorities.

    Deaths from COVID-19 are decreasing. People are anxious for the economy to be opened up. They need to go back to work. They want to get out and socialize more. Government leaders are beginning to ease up on restrictions.

    Governors are in an unenviable position. Should they proceed cautiously, as many medical experts advise, even if their constituents are more anxious, and thus delay economic recovery? Or should they listen to medical experts like Prof. Gupta who say there is a strong possibility that, if we open up faster, while protecting vulnerable populations, everyone will be better off? Either way amounts to gambling with the lives, social welfare, and economic welfare of their residents.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      I listened to the video also and agree she is a learned person – no question – but I also did not that much contrary to what other scientists are saying and she did have caveats including pointing out just how unreliable the anti-body tests are.

      If that is a premise – then there are SOME antibody tests that are accurate and I would ask if any other studies have been done to bring more light to the thought that more may have been infected and recovered.

      I just don’t get out of what she is saying anything that indicates we’ve been on a wrong track.

      Science is a body of knowledge – and for new things – evolving knowledge that comes from not just one person.. it comes from a number of folks who are working on the issues together – and what they can confirm as a group and what they cannot and needs more investigation.

      What we have is folks running around trying to find a particular expert that they agree with – that feeds their own beliefs.

      And science is a bigger picture. It’s this lady , combined with a lot of others… and as they reach consensus on SOME things those things become more “settled”. No one person has all the answers and no one person is what any of us should fixate on.. It’s what the wider body of scientific knowledge is… that’s the way that science works.

      And the really bigger problem is – what should you do at the actual level of the problem?

      For instance, Dick talks about the prisons – what exactly should the prisons being during – based on the science?

      How about nursing homes? How doe science inform what they should be doing? If science says having staff members go home them back to the nursing home or worse, they go to second jobs, then home, then back to the nursing home – what should be done? Blame the science?

      This process goes on through all of our businesses…from restaurants to dentists to DMV offices… what is the prudent path to do ?

      If you asked this lady how to open up DMV, what would you expect her t say? Just tell DMV to open back up and go back to processing hundreds of people a day sitting in close proximity to each other then interacting with the clerks? Who would you ask to get the right answer? This lady?

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        There are a couple of issues with listening to individual scientists as opposed to a group of scientists who concur on some things and disagree on others.

        1. – there are different views among the epidemiologists – and even their views will change as more data becomes available. Looking to find one that agrees with one’s own beliefs is problematical.

        Eventually epidemiologists as a group will start to arrive at some consensus – does not mean the one guy who disagrees is wrong but having larger groups concur – on some things – is usually not wrong.

        It’s the reason why we have “boards” for all manner of things instead of just one guy/gal who decides … we want some level of group concurrence usually.

        2. epidemiologists are not economists (or anything else) They’ll tell you their view but it’s really no different than anyone else who is also not an economist.

        Asking an epidemiologists about the merits of a “lockdown” – is problematical and actually not a good thing because they are actually supposed to maintain a dispassionate and objective view about the subject they are knowledgeable about and not involve their own beliefs. You really don’t want them to involve their own biases.

        So, for instance, if you ask one of them HOW a prison in Virginia should operate with respect to the COVID-19 – how much does that epidemiologist know about how prisons actually work?

        They can tell you about how infection works but can they tell you how to house the prisoners?

        In the end – the folks that run the prisons have to decide what epidemiologists they want to listen to – and it’s really not one or two that they like – it’s the field itself of epidemiology – i.e. what is their current guidance?

        That advice could change also – but it’s still preferred to get that guidance from a group of epidemiologists on what they do agree on than one single person with a particular view that may not agree with other epidemiologists.

        So you can ask the Virginia Dept of Corrections what they are doing in the prisons with respect to COVID-19 and at the end of the day – it’s those leaders who make the decision and it’s based on advice they get from VDH and CDC… not some guy or gal who has views that may or may not concur with these larger organizations.

        This will work the same way with respect to stadium sports, or churches, or schools… you don’t do your policy based on one epidemiologist – you do it on the recommendations of epidemiologists as a field.

    2. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      Dick –

      Thanks for taking a serious look at and making a serious comment on Sunetra Gupta interview. I agree with much of your take on it.

      It should be noted however that Professor Ferguson’s original March 16 Covid 19 model did take remediation in US into consideration, predicting 2.2 million deaths without it, and 1.1 million deaths with remediation, as I recall.

      It is also true that Professor Ferguson, to his credit, only one week later, March 22, revised his model’s US deaths projections down to a remarkable 20,000 deaths, with somewhat cloudy explanation. This latter projection was ignored by the US Press, and the country’s politicians were off to the races in panic.

      In addition, Professor Ferguson, according to many, had a long record of highly inflated protections compared to subsequent deaths in several earlier pandemics, a fact little appreciated by US scientists, and the press, at the time. He was also soon removed from his post by British Government for violating his own mitigation mandates for Britain.

      And of course his projections were soon followed by University of Washington projections which also are alleged to have difficulties with regard to inputting current facts into current models with the result of more gross inflation, at least as to short term. I will provide a video on that as well.

      However, the best Yin to the yang of Oxford’s Professor Gupta is that of Nobel Prize Winner Professor Prof Michael Levitt found below. He corrects a number of assumptions found in your comments above, one’s likely not unreasonable if based on Professor Gupta interview alone. For Levitt powerful and informative interview, see:

      1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
        Reed Fawell 3rd

        Carol Buva just posted this text within her new post entitled Dissecting the COVID-19 Death Statistics:

        “The daily VHHA COVID-19 hospital discharges exceed the VDH daily COVID-19 deaths. In the last ten days, daily discharges ranged from 43 to 255 a day, while deaths ranged from 12 to 57, so the cumulative total of COVID-19 discharges is sharply mounting, far faster than total deaths.”

        Note how text’s statistics dovetail with the considered views of Professors Gupta and Levitt. The caveats are this is only a one snapshot in time as Carol points out, and the professors also are cautious and qualified in their views.


        1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
          Dick Hall-Sizemore

          I assume that hospital discharges have always exceeded deaths. Otherwise, we would have many more deaths.

        2. Just to clarify, I meant to point out the rate of hospitalizations was increasing more sharply than the rate of deaths….

      2. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
        Dick Hall-Sizemore

        As I understand Ferguson’s work he put forth two scenarios: 1. do nothing, projected 2.2 million deaths 2. put in place mitigation steps, projected 1.1 million deaths. His mitigation steps consisted of 1. home isolation of anyone testing positive or having symptoms 2. home quarantine of household members of those living in same household of anyone with symptoms, and 3. social distancing of vulnerable persons, primarily the elderly. Obviously, the mitigation steps in the United States have gone much further than those. Therefore, fewer deaths have resulted.

        I will look at the Levitt interview later. Just taking a break now from yard work.

        1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
          Reed Fawell 3rd

          Here is Gov. Cuomo’s view of results:

          Reed Fawell 3rd | May 26, 2020 at 7:40 am | Reply

          Yesterday New York’s Governor declared that he will answer no more questions about Covid – 19 modeling projections. His reasoning behind this flat refusal is that:

          “Now, people can speculate, people can guess, I think next week, I think two weeks, I think a month,” Cuomo said. “I’m out of that business, because we all failed at that business. All the early national experts, here’s my projection, here’s my projection model, they were all all wrong, they were all wrong.”

          Unfortunately, New York now must admit that 24% of Covid 19 deaths nationwide occurred in New York, while New York has 6% of nation’s population. And still earlier unreported nursing home deaths in the State are coming in. See this, for example:

          “Additional 1,700 Coronavirus Deaths Reported in New York State Nursing Homes

          “(ALBANY, N.Y.) — New York state is now reporting more than 1,700 previously undisclosed deaths at nursing homes and adult care facilities as the state faces scrutiny over how it’s protected vulnerable residents during the coronavirus pandemic.

          At least 4,813 residents with confirmed or presumed cases of COVID-19 have died at 351 of New York’s 613 nursing homes since March 1, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration’s new list. The list, released late Monday, includes the reported number of both confirmed and presumed deaths as of Sunday evening.

          Nursing home residents have made up roughly one-fourth to one-fifth of the state’s official tally of fatalities. But just how many nursing home residents have died of COVID-19 remains uncertain despite the state’s latest disclosure, as the list doesn’t include deaths of nursing home residents at hospitals or any details about the number of COVID-19 cases at individual nursing homes.

          The data shows that 22 nursing homes largely in New York City and Long Island have reported at least 40 deaths and that 64 nursing homes have reported between 20 to 49 deaths.”

          For more, see:

          That does not include the enormous economic harm inflicted, bankrupting New York State and City, the hospital system, and thousands upon thousands of private businesses, citizens, and educational institutions, throughout NYC and state.

  6. LarrytheG Avatar

    I’m just not following some of the criticism… we got data coming out of a firehose – not well vetted.. so surprise, surprise!

    I understand the frustration.. but it is what it is…

    VDH was just not ever designed to deal with a pandemic of this scale. The institution is not what we expect it to be.

    As some point, they do need to be re-vamped.. the job got bigger than they are currently able to do… and neither the head of VDH nor Northam truly “get it”…

    This is sorta like ragging on all the reasons why you dislike your EX!

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