Sweden vs. Its Neighbors
I am angry.
Here we are, in the midst of a global pandemic that simultaneously threatens the lives of countless people while destroying the incomes of millions. There is a lot of confusion — some of it honest misunderstanding, some straight up agnotology.
On the one side, there are the medical experts, professional epidemiologists who have studied these kinds of outbreaks their entire professional lives; on the other, people with very specific self-interests and political agendas. I like to listen to what the medical professionals think about this medical issue. If you are discussing this on TV, are not a medical expert, and must preface your remarks with the phrase: “I may not be an epidemiologist, but…” perhaps it would be best if you just STFU.
On social media — tailor made for its own epidemic of misinformation — there is a collection of armchair epidemiologists, partisans and cranks. Twitter has become a live field study in Dunning–Kruger effect run amuck; I stay off of Facebook because half of what I see there is just nonsense sourced from Russian bots shared by well-meaning idiots.
Sorry for the vitriol, but I have my own biases: I want to keep my family alive and healthy; make sure my business continues to operate, and my employees earn a livelihood. I have shit to do before I am ready to take the eternal dirt nap. This pandemic and its mishandling puts my list of things I hope to accomplish in this lifetime at risk, and that really pisses me the f*&k off.
We all want to reopen sooner rather than later, we all have cabin fever, some of us have our therapists, divorce attorneys, and amateur pharmacists on speed dial. On one side are those who are listening to the experts, urging us to be smart and use caution. On the other side are people who seem to be underweighting what the medical professionals are saying.
Hey, we all have different, agendas, right?
I can’t whack every mole that pops up filled with bad analysis, no data or simply false claims. But when the really annoying ones pop up, we can take a swing.
Today, that is Sweden. The claims being made is that Sweden did not do a radical lockdown like its closest neighbors did — and it all the better for it. Similar climate, genetic backgrounds, cultures, et. seems to make that a fair comparison, which is why I tweeted this:
Sweden’s Coronavirus death rate > its neighborshttps://t.co/BFr32ihujD
Total Cases: 22,317
Per /1m Pop: 2,210
— Barry Ritholtz (@ritholtz) May 3, 2020
I thought that was a fair, straightforward comparison. Yet the responses were all over the place; I was genuinely surprised that the biggest pushback was on deaths per million (which was included). To make it as clear as possible, Invictus and I pulled some charts together on excel (below) sourced from OurWorldinData.
But then he found this chart, and it really tells the story about how well Sweden’s non-lockdown approach to herd immunity is working out. (If you have any data to show to the contrary that Sweden’s approach is superior, please share it).
Deaths per Million people:
Source: Our World in Data
The Frightening Global Rise of Agnotology (June 27, 2016)
Statistics and Research: Coronavirus Pandemic (COVID-19) has a great collection of user accessible specific regional and country data.
No, Sweden Isn’t a Miracle Coronavirus Model by Lionel Laurent (May 1, 2020)
Excel Spread sheet: 2total-covid-deaths-per-million