A year ago this coming weekend, @CNN posted this tweet which caused many to despair for the intelligence of the US public.

38% of Americans, they claimed, would not buy Corona beer because of the Coronavirus.
The story repeats the same assertion based on a survey of 737 US beer drinkers:

"5W Public Relations said that 38% of Americans wouldn't buy Corona "under any circumstances" because of the outbreak, and another 14% said they wouldn't order a Corona in public."
But if you track back to the original poll, you'll see that the story is false.

Indeed 38% won't buy corona, but it has nothing to do with the virus

Only 4% of corona drinkers won't buy it because of the virus.
At most, 16% of the US public was confused about a possible link to the beer.

Embarrassing for CNN, but never corrected as best as I know.

Still, CNN is CNN, and a story about attitudes toward corona beer is silly human interest page material.
Last week, @STATNews made a similar mistake—but with much higher stakes.

They claimed that 1/4 of Americans who wanted a COVID test couldn't get one.

The actual number is nearly 1/2.

The result is that the story whitewashes the abject failure here in the US to deploy the testing capacity we need.

I've tried to contact the venue and the author on twitter, to no avail.

I can't understand why @STATNews is letting this stand uncorrected.

1) Two tweets back, I should have said “when they wanted one” not “who wanted one”, as this was the original language. I believe the implication is the same, but I want to be clear what they said.

2) @statnews has reached out and we are discussing.

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More from @CT_Bergstrom

17 Feb
I recently developed and delivered a 50-minute lecture on the pitfalls of selection bias for NIH's Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research @NIHOBSSR.

It is now available for free online, and would appropriate for many undergraduate courses.

We start off with a puzzle. How can it be that every insurance company thinks they their new customers about $500 when they switch? ImageImageImageImage
The fundamental subject of the lecture is, as promised, selection bias.

Selection bias occurs when the people who you sample differ systematically from the population at large, with respect to the question you are asking. Image
Read 12 tweets
16 Feb
I'm astonished by the level of vaccine hesitancy I'm seeing from people 65 and older who never were vaccine-hesitant in the past.

I'm guessing it is bullshit like this reprehensible headly from @FoxNews that is responsible.
It's not a breakthrough if a small number of people contract COVID after millions receive a 95% effective vaccine. It's exactly what you'd expect.

In the article, the term "breakthrough" is used not as a startling result, but refers to a virus "breaking through" immune defenses.
The article even explains that this is exactly what one would expect and is not news in any way.

But shocker headlines drive clicks.

And worse still, many people don't click—they just become slightly more hesitant with every subsequent bullshit headline.
Read 6 tweets
12 Feb
1. Today the CDC issued new guidance on opening K-12 schools during the pandemic. The guidelines are more explicit and clearer than previous iterations.

They also align closely with my understanding of what is prudent at this stage of the pandemic.

3. The CDC document notes that — unsurprisingly — community transmission level is an extremely important in determining the safety of school reopening, and throughout the document, recommendations are keyed to the underlying levels of community transmission.
Read 29 tweets
10 Feb
Another evolutionary biology post, and a question.

For years we taught the three-domain hypothesis
for the tree of life: Bacteria split from sister groups Eukaryota and Archaea, as shown in the wikipedia figure below. Critically, Archaea is monophyletic here.
The two-domain hypothesis, sometimes called the eocyte hypothesis, proposes that archaea is paraphyletic. This means that eukaryotes are more closely related to some archaea than all archaea are to one another. (Figure from my textbook with @leedugatkin.)
This latter hypothesis is gaining attention.

Here's my question: given that it took an endosymbiosis event to create eukaryota, shouldn't our prior strongly favor the two-domain hypothesis?
Read 5 tweets
8 Feb
It has not been a good news day when it comes to vaccines—particularly AstraZeneca—and the B.1.351 variant that arose in South Africa.

But buried amidst the bad news of a halted rollout there was a paper suggestive of very good news released: this one.

What did they do?

They built synthetic (pseudotyped—en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pseudotyp…) virions that express the spike protein from various SARS-CoV-2 strains including B.1.1.7 and B.1.351, and looked at where serum from natural infection and from the Pfizer vaccine can neutralize these.
Because these are not direct studies of clinical outcomes in actual patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 itself, they are merely suggestive about the effectiveness of natural immunity and of the Pfizer vaccine.

But I think they are strongly suggestive.
Read 7 tweets
8 Feb
Love Springsteen, but man this sucks.

Not just the message, the writing especially.

It's not halftime in America, folks.

Reminds me of the Jeep Renegade I was given by some rental car company, actually. Utter mediocrity blended with disappointment and wrapped in a very thin veneer of patriotic old-time values.
It did have bits and pieces of plasticy whoop-ass (TM) interior trim that are not reflected in the tone of the commercial, and a redline that you know means business because of the paint splatter.
Read 4 tweets

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