Have we reached the point where there is any credibility left in academia or the news industry when they present numbers to us?
Here’s an example. London bus drivers three times more likely to die from Covid.
Well, that’s bad, obviously.
I came across this article because I’d been waiting for data to appear to help answer a question that’s been nagging my brain for some time. That is, what’s the relative rates of infection, hospitalisation and death for the workers who’ve been unable to work from home for the last year. I’m thinking of bus drivers and supermarket cashiers, specifically.
Read the article for yourself, but data points offered include:
- 51 bus drivers have died of covid.
- This equates to “three times” the rate of other workers (but the actual rate isn’t offered, nor is the denominator).
- “….an earlier introduction of the lockdown on 23 March 2020 would have saved lives“.
- “The report confirms driving a London bus is one of the most dangerous jobs during the pandemic.”
If we accept the UK population is about 67 million, give or take a couple of million illegal immigrants, and the offical total of covid deaths is about 126,000, then the population fatality rate is just under 0.2%.
Despite the BBC article not bothering you with this detail, a search would suggest there were approximately 24,500 bus drivers in London in 2014. So, 51/24,500 x 100 = a death rate of 0.2%.
Obviously the UK-wide calculation is using the overall population, including retirees who would skew the ratio up, but also children who would skew the ratio down. But, as a sniff test, it suggests there’s not something wildly different going on with bus drivers, despite what the report claims.
The assertion that driving a bus is one of the most dangerous professions seems to be doing a little heavy lifting and one many cycle couriers and North Sea divers may want to take issue with.
The report’s conclusion seems suspiciously in line with precisely what Sadiq Khan
paid them to write was expecting, i.e. evil and stupid Boris Johnson should have shut down the country earlier.
In other news, if nobody ever travelled by car again, there would be no more traffic fatalities and, in a specific example, if James Dean had taken a train instead of driving Little Bastard he might still be here today. Just because a statement is true doesn’t mean it’s helpful.
If you wish to bypass the useless reporting, the full 87 pages of the UCL report can be found here. Fair warning, it won’t improve your confidence in the existence of objective science, though.
The report attempts to parse diverse data sets on areas such as age, ethnicity, health, social status, housing, and methods of commute to work to produce a conclusion on why the death rate was so high (a prior assumption which we can challenge) and what could have been done or can still be done to ameliorate it.
Judge for yourself whether this was achieved and whether or not objective scientific analysis was used.
Personally, I’m none the wiser on two important questions:
Have front line workers been disproportionately infected or killed by the virus, and if so, why?
The report has convinced me of one fact, however; this is a multi-variable problem and seeking a single reason is pointless. 87 pages of pointlessness, in this case.
Some clues can be found within the report, if one looks hard enough though. Once you get past the headline conclusion of, “keeping everyone at home earlier would have stopped bus drivers from catching a virus and dying from it“, there is a tell tale admission in the second recommendation:
2) In the longer term, early interventions on ill-health prevention are needed to reduce obesity in the population as a whole, with responsible employers playing their part. In particular, measures are needed among younger London bus drivers who have higher rates than other young people of the same age.
Finally, he who pays the piper, calls the tune. This is a flawed and political study, primarily for the purpose of shifting blame on to the Mayor of London’s political opponent.
The clue is even in the organisation name, the Institute of Health Equity.
Equity. Whenever one sees that noun, it’s a clear signal you are dealing with disciples of Critical Theory and should treat the call for action with the same credibility as the Heaven’s Gate Cult.
A year on and we still can’t trust any number offered on the subject.