Too Bad RTD Didn’t Read “Lies, Damn Lies and Race-Obsessed Statistics”

by Carol J. Bova

Almost a year ago, I wrote about a March 3, 2021 Virginia Department of Health blog post, in which VDH claimed in an article about COVID-19:

In Virginia, Hispanic and Black age-specific death rates are much higher than White age-specific death rates. The age group with the largest disparity was 35-44 year olds, with the Hispanic death rate 10.9 times higher and the Black rate 6.3 times higher than the White death rate. After this age group the size of the disparity steadily decreases. Among persons 85 years and older, the Hispanic rate is similar to the White rate, and the Black rate is 1.1 times higher than the White rate.

It’s too bad Richmond Times-Dispatch reporters don’t read Bacon’s Rebellion (or, if they do, they don’t pay any attention). The RTD could have saved itself a lot of embarrassment for its use of outdated and blatantly misleading statistics in a recent article in which it asserted that, three months into the COVID epidemic, Latinos in Richmond were 38 times more likely to be infected than white residents and 17 times more likely to be hospitalized.

Prior to mid-June 2020, there was no Latino category in VDH reports. The agency used Asian/Pacific Islander, Black, Native American, and Other Races or 2+ Races.

It wasn’t until August 26, 2020, that VDH COVID-19 blog described how “Social Epidemiologists from the Office of Health Equity used imputation techniques to estimate race and ethnicity for cases missing that data.” The analysis gave a breakdown by the four racial categories and then looked at Latino ethnicity within those categories.

It wasn’t long before VDH conflated Race and Latino Ethnicity and after June 14, 2020, reported Latino as if it were a single race, not an ethnicity where one could be of any race.

By the time I wrote “Lies, Damn  Lies and Race-Obsessed Statistics” in March 2021, VDH had issued a number of adjustments and corrections, and this is how the COVID-19 Death Chart looked then:

Certainly, a lot closer to the population distribution in Virginia. So, how do the reports look in March 2022?

Perhaps the Health Department — and the RTD — should stop obsessing about race and work instead to control diabetes, Vitamin D deficiency, obesity and encouraged proper nutrition. All Virginians, including Hispanics, would be healthier and better able to cope with Covid.