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Ann Coulter misread my chart on the dangers of the coronavirus, then tweeted about it — and it shows how easily misinformation can spread in a crisis

Mar 25, 2020
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Ann CoulterAnn Coulter
Ann Coulter.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The crisis around the novel coronavirus pandemic is evolving incredibly quickly, with new information about the spread, effects, and lethality of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, being released by medical professionals and government public health administrations at a rapid pace.” data-reactid=”25″>The crisis around the novel coronavirus pandemic is evolving incredibly quickly, with new information about the spread, effects, and lethality of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, being released by medical professionals and government public health administrations at a rapid pace.

At Insider and Business Insider, we are doing our best to provide timely, accurate, and usable information to our readers. To further that goal, we’ve produced several charts and visualizations illustrating different aspects of the crisis, presenting numbers and data in a way that we hope is easily and quickly understood.

But those charts are not always parsed correctly.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="On March 12, I wrote an article comparing the case-fatality rates from COVID-19 in South Korea as of that date to death rates from the seasonal flu in the United States, including a chart that showed death rates from both illnesses among various age groups. The stark takeaway from the chart was that COVID-19 was deadlier for nearly every age group than the flu, and is especially dangerous for older patients:” data-reactid=”28″>On March 12, I wrote an article comparing the case-fatality rates from COVID-19 in South Korea as of that date to death rates from the seasonal flu in the United States, including a chart that showed death rates from both illnesses among various age groups. The stark takeaway from the chart was that COVID-19 was deadlier for nearly every age group than the flu, and is especially dangerous for older patients:

flu vs south korea covid death ratesflu vs south korea covid death rates
flu vs south korea covid death rates

Business Insider/Andy Kiersz, data from CDC and KCDC

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="However, on Tuesday evening, conservative commentator Ann Coulter tweeted out that chart, along with a curious misinterpretation of the data presented: "For people under 60, coronavirus is LESS dangerous than the seasonal flu."” data-reactid=”41″>However, on Tuesday evening, conservative commentator Ann Coulter tweeted out that chart, along with a curious misinterpretation of the data presented: “For people under 60, coronavirus is LESS dangerous than the seasonal flu.”

 

This is the exact opposite of what the chart shows. Death rates from the flu during the 2018-2019 US flu season were all well below 0.1% for each age group under 65 years old. COVID-19 death rates in South Korea as of March 12 among patients between age 30 and 60 were all higher than flu death rates for comparable age groups. However, South Korea has, as of March 25, registered no deaths among COVID-19 patients under age 30.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Notably, South Korea has consistently seen a lower case-fatality rate from COVID-19 than most other countries with comparably sized coronavirus outbreaks. This suggests that, globally, COVID-19 could be even more dangerous, including among patients under age 60, than the above chart suggests.” data-reactid=”45″>Notably, South Korea has consistently seen a lower case-fatality rate from COVID-19 than most other countries with comparably sized coronavirus outbreaks. This suggests that, globally, COVID-19 could be even more dangerous, including among patients under age 60, than the above chart suggests.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Several of the replies to Coulter's tweet criticized the apparent misreading of the chart. MSNBC producer Kyle Griffen simply tweeted, "That is not what the chart shows." Many other users replied along the same lines, noting that the chart shows that COVID-19 has higher death rates for patients between age 30 and 60 than the flu.” data-reactid=”46″>Several of the replies to Coulter’s tweet criticized the apparent misreading of the chart. MSNBC producer Kyle Griffen simply tweeted, “That is not what the chart shows.” Many other users replied along the same lines, noting that the chart shows that COVID-19 has higher death rates for patients between age 30 and 60 than the flu.

Business Insider reached out to Coulter via a contact form on her website and an email to her publisher. We did not receive a response by publication time, and this article will be updated with any reply.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Information flow in a crisis like the coronavirus pandemic is difficult. Even something as basic as the share of coronavirus patients around the world who have died from the illness changes from day to day as new cases and deaths are reported. In an environment like this, careful presentation and sharing of results is especially important.” data-reactid=”48″>Information flow in a crisis like the coronavirus pandemic is difficult. Even something as basic as the share of coronavirus patients around the world who have died from the illness changes from day to day as new cases and deaths are reported. In an environment like this, careful presentation and sharing of results is especially important.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="One interesting reply to Coulter's tweet came from Georgetown public policy professor Don Moynihan. He noted a possible political aspect to the misinformation. He wrote that his research includes how "ideology shapes how people process data," and that Coulter’s use of a chart showing the opposite of her claim "is the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen."” data-reactid=”49″>One interesting reply to Coulter’s tweet came from Georgetown public policy professor Don Moynihan. He noted a possible political aspect to the misinformation. He wrote that his research includes how “ideology shapes how people process data,” and that Coulter’s use of a chart showing the opposite of her claim “is the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.”

 

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Several conservatives in the US have downplayed the severity of the outbreak in recent weeks. While several major colleges and universities have canceled in-person classes and shifted to online learning for the spring semester, Liberty University’s staunchly conservative president Jerry Falwell Jr. announced that the school would remain open, and has suggested that coverage of the virus is a plot by the media to harm President Donald Trump.” data-reactid=”52″>Several conservatives in the US have downplayed the severity of the outbreak in recent weeks. While several major colleges and universities have canceled in-person classes and shifted to online learning for the spring semester, Liberty University’s staunchly conservative president Jerry Falwell Jr. announced that the school would remain open, and has suggested that coverage of the virus is a plot by the media to harm President Donald Trump.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="In earlier weeks of the outbreak, Trump and several conservative media outlets suggested that the coronavirus was not especially deadly, but as US cases continue to climb, many have changed their tone.&nbsp;” data-reactid=”53″>In earlier weeks of the outbreak, Trump and several conservative media outlets suggested that the coronavirus was not especially deadly, but as US cases continue to climb, many have changed their tone

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Read the original article on Business Insider” data-reactid=”54″>Read the original article on Business Insider

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