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No, the CDC did not drop its COVID-19 death count to 37,000. In fact, it didn't 'revise' it at all.

I'm losing count of how many times in the past few days I've seen someone post something along the lines of this tweet:

"The CDC has actually ADMITTED that they overcounted COVID-19 deaths!"

"Look at the numbers—they're right there on the CDC website plain as day!"

"See, it's all overblown! We did this whole shutdown thing and tanked the economy for nothing!"

First of all, no, the CDC did not revise anything. Let's dive into these numbers because they actually are a bit confusing when you don't read the whole page (and frankly, some parts are a little confusing even if you do—get it together, CDC).


There are different methods of counting COVID-19 deaths, and the CDC's website includes numbers for two very different methods. We have:

1) The official CDC death count, which you can find on the CDC's home page. This count comes directly from public health departments in each state and territory daily. As of the writing of this article, that count stands at 68,279.

2) The Provisional Death Count, which is where that ~37,000 number comes from. This count comes from the National Vital Statistics System—the system that processes and logs death certificates. The notable thing about the Provisional Death Count is that it's not up-to-date. The CDC site itself states that the numbers on the Provisional Death chart lag weeks behind other counts:

"It is important to note that it can take several weeks for death records to be submitted to National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), processed, coded, and tabulated. Therefore, the data shown on this page may be incomplete, and will likely not include all deaths that occurred during a given time period, especially for the more recent time periods. Death counts for earlier weeks are continually revised and may increase or decrease as new and updated death certificate data are received from the states by NCHS. COVID-19 death counts shown here may differ from other published sources, as data currently are lagged by an average of 1–2 weeks."

Here's a real-world example of what this looks like:

This is a screenshot of the Provisional Death Count as of April 16, 2020 (which you can access at this CDC link). As you can see, the COVID death count for the week of 4/11/20 was 3,542.

And here is the Provisional Death Count as of the writing of this article, which you can view in real time at this CDC link. As you can see, the week of 4/11/20 has been updated from 3,542 deaths to 12,628—a nearly four-fold increase since the April 16 publication.

When the numbers were published on 4/16/20, there were still 9,086 death certificates that hadn't been processed yet from the week prior—that's what they mean by a lag. Three weeks later, the numbers are very different.

So that 37,000 total (well, 39,000 right now) will change as the death certificates get processed. The Provisional Death Count simply isn't accurate yet. And the lag means it will never be an up-to-date count, so it's not a reliable source for current death numbers.

The problem is that people have been sharing the not-up-to-date Provisional Death Count link as a way to make it sound like the COVID-19 death numbers are actually smaller. They are not.

It's worth noting that all COVID-19 death counts include both lab-confirmed and "presumed" COVID-19 deaths. This has also been a source of confusion, not to mention conspiracy. But "presumed" doesn't mean just a wild guess.

Test results for coronavirus have a high false negative rate—from 5% to 30%—according to Dr. Alan Wells, professor of pathology at University of Pittsburgh. So relying solely on positive lab test results for COVID deaths would miss thousands. At this point, doctors and medical examiners can generally recognize clear COVID symptoms in a critically ill or deceased patient, and if a patient meets the clinical, epidemiological, or vital records criteria for the COVID being the cause of death, that's considered "presumed."

Each state has different requirements for coding COVID-19 deaths, and it's generally a very small percentage that are counted as "presumed."

Adding to the confusion on this front, Dr. Birx, from the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said that the U.S. was taking a "liberal" approach to counting COVID-19 deaths, and ""The intent is, right now, that . . . if someone dies with COVID-19, we are counting that as a COVID-19 death."

People unfortunately did not take that statement in the context of underlying conditions, which is what Dr. Birx was talking about. Here's what she actually said:

"There are other countries that if you had a pre-existing condition and let's say the virus caused you to go to the ICU and then have a heart or kidney problem -- some countries are recording that as a heart issue or a kidney issue and not a COVID-19 death. Right now ... if someone dies with COVID-19 we are counting that as a COVID-19 death."

If a person has a heart condition and they get sick with COVID-19 and die, COVID is counted as a cause of their death, even if they died of a heart attack—the reasonable assumption being that the disease led the patient's weakened heart to give in. Dr. Birx did not mean that a gunshot victim or a fatal car accident victim would be certified as a COVID-19 death just because they tested positive for the disease. That would be silly, not to mention illegal.

Read more on how COVID-19 deaths are counted from a forensic pathologist here.

You can also see an email from the Louisiana Health Department specifying how doctors are to log coronavirus deaths here:

So, no, COVID-19 death counts have not been revised downward, nor are they artificially inflated. In fact, it's more likely that they've been undercounted than overcounted, since only deaths that had been confirmed by tests were being counted for at least the first month of the outbreak in the U.S.

More importantly, read the fine print on a website before you make any assumptions about what you're seeing. Health data tracking can be a confusing to dive into under normal circumstances, much less during a novel virus pandemic where we're all learning as we go.

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

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Pop Culture

Artist uses AI to create ultra realistic portraits of celebrities who left us too soon

What would certain icons look like if nothing had happened to them?

Mercury would be 76 today.

Some icons have truly left this world too early. It’s a tragedy when anyone doesn’t make it to see old age, but when it happens to a well-known public figure, it’s like a bit of their art and legacy dies with them. What might Freddie Mercury have created if he were granted the gift of long life? Bruce Lee? Princess Diana?

Their futures might be mere musings of our imagination, but thanks to a lot of creativity (and a little tech) we can now get a glimpse into what these celebrities might have looked like when they were older.

Alper Yesiltas, an Istanbul-based lawyer and photographer, created a photography series titled “As If Nothing Happened,” which features eerily realistic portraits of long gone celebrities in their golden years. To make the images as real looking as possible, Yesiltas incorporated various photo editing programs such as Adobe Lightroom and VSCO, as well as the AI photo-enhancing software Remini.

“The hardest part of the creative process for me is making the image feel ‘real’ to me,” Yesiltas wrote about his passion project. “The moment I like the most is when I think the image in front of me looks as if it was taken by a photographer.”

Yesiltas’ meticulousness paid off, because the results are uncanny.

Along with each photo, Yesiltas writes a bittersweet message “wishing” how things might have gone differently … as if nothing happened.
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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

Joe Biden's White House Competition Council is making airline prices transparent.

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Pretty soon, what seemed like a good deal on a cheap carrier costs more than if you bought a ticket on a full-service airline.

The Biden administration is announcing new rules that will make airline ticket fees more transparent to consumers. Under the proposed new rule, the first time your fee is displayed, travel websites will have to disclose any fees for baggage, cancellations or to sit with your child.

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As the saying goes, "You have to kiss a few frogs..."

Dating has certainly evolved over the years—we’ve gone from courtship being purely a financial arrangement (not that this trend has ever truly died) to knights jousting for a lady’s favor, to casual hookups … and now, romance is primarily found through an app more than anything else.

Technology used for meeting that special someone has become so advanced that you can base your search entirely upon specific interests. Like … oddly specific interests. Think a fellow cat person would be the purrfect match? There’s an app for that. Wish to “love long and prosper” with a fellow Trekkie? There’s an app for that too.

No matter the changes, one thing remains the same—dating is awkward. It’s got all the unspoken formalities of a job interview, disguised as innocent fun. The balance between playing it too cool and too eager is hard to find even for the smoothest among us, and usually results in total embarrassment. Even if we aren’t the ones committing those embarrassing acts ourselves, we are often the reluctant witness to them.

Terrible dates might not always be fun in the moment, but they can be just as important as the good ones. They can teach us a lot about ourselves and what qualities we want in a partner. And at the very least, they can teach us to embrace social clumsiness with a sense of humor.

Jimmy Fallon recently asked his “Tonight Show” audience on Twitter to share a “funny or embarrassing first date story” for his ever popular #Hashtags segment. The best part—some of these awful first dates ended in marriage. There’s hope for us all.

Below, find 15 stories that are truly the best of the worst. How do some of your first dates compare?

1. "After a nice dinner, she invited me to her house. On the way up, inside the elevator, I decided to push the button to stop between floors and give her a kiss... She had a phobia of closed spaces and she smacked my face as a reflex, two punches after we were kissing and laughing.” – @PanqueAlgarvio

2. “His jeans were so tight he couldn’t sit down. Stood at a bar stool the whole time.” – @onlyintheozarks

3. “Waiting 4 my date when an older couple asked me for a ride. my date came up and said sure! We drove them home & they asked us to come in. Date said “sure”. I pulled him back & asked why he wanted to hang w/strangers. He said ‘sh@t! YOU DON'T KNOW THEM!?’ We bolted!” – @natashaham75

facebook dating

Talk about a fashion faux pas.

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4. “Before the date, we had been chatting about books we liked and I talked about a great book I just read. We went on the date. I loaned her the book. She ghosted me.” – @thenextbarstool

5. “The worst first date I ever had was when my date locked his keys in the car and I had a curfew so he had to break his car window out to get me home on time. Didn’t think I’d ever see him again but we wound up married.” – @csleblan

6. “First date movie ‘Basic Instinct’ not realizing how suggestive it was. We just thought it was a mystery thriller! We left the movie discussing how each character could have actually murdered someone. We're married now.” – @Southrnbell_Amy

black people meet

There are worse first date movies tbh.

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7. “First date with my ex husband was a double date with his parents. The preview for ‘Speed Racer’ came on, and she leaned over me to say to her son, ‘You know what your dad's nickname in the bedroom is?’" – @theostoria

8. “A friend asked me on a double date as a blind date with his date's friend. I went to the bathroom and came back just in time to hear my date say to her friend, ‘why do I get the ugly one?’ I said good night to all three and headed home, leaving her w/the bill.” – @StevenTrustum

9. “He loved cheese. I was subjected to a 2 hour conversation/lecture about cheese, and why cottage cheese is not cheese!” – @Optimist_Eeyore

bumble

I'd like to see this two-hour cheese lecture.

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10. “He took me to an Asian fish market. We walked around looking at live & dead fish for a while. I don’t like seeing dead animals & I don’t eat seafood. Then we sat on a curb & he pulled out a ziplock bag of pineapple for us to share. I don’t like pineapple.” – @markayhali

11. “My cousin set up a first date for me with a family friend. During a break from dinner, Mr. Man follows me into the ladies’ room, comes up close and says in a low voice, ‘I shave my butt.’ Can’t remember what I said in response but the evening ended abruptly.” – @carli_zarzana

12. “I once took out my high school crush to a sports bar and ordered the spiciest wings there in an attempt to impress her. Not only was she not impressed. The next morning I woke up with heartburn.” –@Dmonster38

tindr conversation starters

Talk about a hot date.

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13. “My date showed up with his bestie and girlfriend, and they talked through dinner about people I don’t know. Walking to the car, he gave me a wedgie because he thought he hadn’t been paying enough attention to me.” – @surrealDazey


14. “I was taking my date home and was pulled over by the police for speeding. When the cop came to my car, she jumped out and told him she had to get home. She walked home and I never heard from her again. I'm not sure who's #WorstFirstDate it was mine or hers!” – @eastriverbear

15. “After an evening of dancing with a first date, leaving the dance hall, I had to take a quick pee break. Rushing out to the parking lot, I see a lady, I grab her and swoop her around, and plant a big wet kiss on the lips. She was another guy's wife. Oops!” – @seadogskamore

date you

Only Gomez could have gotten away with it.

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