Why does it give me the feeling that there are more covid infections than ever around me | Society

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“Much more positive covid among my relatives now than in the entire pandemic so far.” “Never before have I seen so many close cases in such a short time.” “I have heard of more positive cases in recent weeks than in the rest of the year, it is amazing.” Why, if the average cumulative incidence (AI) in Spain of coronavirus —472 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in 14 days — is still far from the maximum levels it has reached —899 in the third wave and 700 in the fifth — so many people on social networks and in real life do you make comments like the previous ones?

The holidays are coming. Those who test positive now, due to the mandatory ten-day quarantine, will have to remain isolated during the Christmas celebrations. And many see the cases multiply around them. With the statistics in hand, an average Madrilenian (with a cumulative incidence of 391 in the community) should be seeing fewer cases around him than in other waves: in the fourth – which due to its low intensity, some do not even consider it to be a wave anymore. – 400 were exceeded; in the second and sixth the 700 were far exceeded; and the third was around a thousand (there is no reliable data for the first). However, many have more cases around them now than then.

The plural of anecdote is not evidence. With this aphorism, widely used among scientists, they emphasize that subjective impressions are not always a good indicator to measure what is happening in the world. The conditions that surround a person can lead him to assume very specific situations as absolute realities. It happens with everything, but especially when it comes to health. To solve this, there are clinical trials and statistics, which objectify to the maximum what is happening and draw conclusions in which the biases of the individuals do not mediate.

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These are some of the reasons that may influence that the official figures do not correspond to the perception of some Spaniards:

Because holidays alter the statistics

The holidays of the past week are causing, most likely, that the official statistics are underestimating the number of real cases. As two days in which there was no report were unskilled, the data is lame. When two weeks pass from the day of the Immaculate Conception (something that will happen on December 23) the data will return to normal and there may be a jump in the accumulated incidence to 14 days, which is the one used as standard in Spain. This can already be verified with the seven-day AI (291), which once exceeded this Thursday in accounting for holidays has grown by 85% in one week, compared to an increase of 54% in 14. And that to Despite the fact that in the seven-day statistic, a larger percentage of cases are lost due to delays in notifications.

Holidays have also been able to serve to spread the virus, thanks to increased social relationships and travel. Those contagions are surfacing right now.

For delays in diagnoses

Patricia (real case name) started noticing symptoms last Monday. He requested a covid telephone appointment at his health center, north of the city of Madrid, and it was given to him for the 21st. The simple call will take a week; In the best of cases, if you test positive, your data would go into statistics 10 days late. Many health centers are reporting an unprecedented traffic jam. This prevents giving a true picture of what is happening. The case of Patricia, if confirmed, would enter IA in 14 days, but would not reach that of seven.

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For the tests in pharmacies

This is the first wave in which citizens can buy tests in pharmacies, a measure approved at the end of July, well into the fifth wave. They can know their positive, therefore, without going through the official channels. Faced with delays like the one described above, more and more people prefer to go directly to their pharmacy to check if they are infected. Although the positive must be reported to the health authorities of the autonomous community where they live, not everyone does. How many cases are left in the shadows for this reason is a mystery.

For a generational issue

The virus does not circulate with the same intensity in all age groups. It is especially triggered in children under 12 years of age (with a cumulative incidence of 686), in their thirties (550) and in their forties (582), ages that very often correspond to the parents of these children. It is likely that a person who belongs to this generation or is in contact with children has a much more pronounced sense of living surrounded by positives than, for example, a twenty-year-old, who saw his fifth become massively infected in the fifth wave.

Because it depends on the city of residence

If the covid spreads unevenly through the generations, it is not homogeneous throughout Spain either. The jumps between autonomous communities are very accentuated, beyond the defects already described that the statistics may have. It is not uncommon for a person who lives in Navarra (an AI of 1,330) or the Basque Country (1,003) to perceive that there are many more positives around them than another from Andalusia (248) or Extremadura (296). It happens simply because there are so many more.

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Because of the omicron?

All the data indicate that the new omicron variant, although somewhat milder, spreads much faster than the delta, which is still the majority in the world. In Spain, at the moment, only a few dozen cases of this variant have been sequenced, although health authorities know that transmission is already community-based and that it is much more widespread than the official figures say: as always, they are behind of reality. Although it is tempting to attribute this sudden rise in infections that many perceive to the omicron, at the moment there is no data to support this thesis. We will have to wait to find out to what extent it is contributing to the rise in the curve.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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