Lies, damn lies and statistics

A front-page story in today’s New York Times suggests that Sweden hasn’t paid much of a price for its blasé attitude toward COVID-19. Here is the key paragraph supporting that premise:

Sweden’s death rate of 22 per 100,000 people is the same as that of Ireland, which has earned accolades for its handling of the pandemic, and far better than in Britain or France.

Yet Times columnist Thomas Friedman tells a completely different story:

As USA Today noted: “Sweden has a population of 10 million people, about twice as large as its nearest Scandinavian neighbors. As of April 28, the country’s Covid-19 death toll reached 2,274, about five times higher than in Denmark and 11 times higher than in Norway.” Nursing home residents account for more than a third of all deaths.

And get this: Friedman supports the Swedish approach, arguing that it’s the only way we’re going to build herd immunity. Yet the World Health Organization recently reported that we don’t know whether people who’ve recovered from COVID can get it again. Needless to say, if there’s no immunity, there will be no herd immunity.

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