Author Archives: statsinthewild

Rabbit Hole – Episode 1 : Tideglusib

So, a while ago I tweeted out asking for podcast ideas.  Didn’t really think I’d get anything too interesting back, but David Hess had a great suggestion: I go to a random wikipedia page and then just see where it goes.  I think this is a brilliant idea, and I’m stealing it for myself.  I’m calling this “Rabbit Hole” and it will be broadcast live on Twitch.  It’s perfect for me because it takes absolutely no planning and I can just do it whenever.  I did it for the first time last night.  (Full video is here).  Here is a recap of last nights episode.

We started here: Tideglusib

Tideglusib is a GSK-3 inhibitor.  Which apparently has something to do with Bipolar disorder.  This made me looks up why they changed the name from “manic depression” to “bipolar disorder”

That page led me to…..the Animaniacs.

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Where I watched the 50 state capitals video and the Nations of the World video.  In that second video they sing the lyric “both Yemens”.  Apparently from 1967 to 1990 there were two Yemens!  I had no idea!

Note: Animaniacs aired from 1993 to 1998.  So the song was WRONG.

I then wondered who did the voice of Yakko.  It’s a guy named Rob Paulsen.  He was also the voice of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Raphael!  He also the guy from this classic “Got Milk” commercial!  (He was a Hamilton fan before it was cool……)

Then this picture happened and I needed to look up Anthrocon.

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Here is the Fursuit parade from Anthrocon 2019.  It’s…..something.

So then I started reading about furries, as one does…..and apparently, there is some actual academic work being done studying furry culture.  I found and started reading this paper from the journal Animals and Society.  Which led me here when I was trying to figure out the difference between pan-sexual and omni-sexual.

In that furry study, they were doing some statistical tests to see if there were differences in proportions of gay, straight, and bisexual people who are involved in furry culture. What they tested was if all the proportions were the same.  I didn’t think that made sense and it would have been better to compare to the proportions in the general population.  So I went and looked up what the proportions are in the general population.  Interestingly, Americans tend to over estimate the size of the U.S. gay population.  (Guess what it is an see how close you are.  I wasn’t too far off, but I did over estimate it).

This led me to thinking about how you estimate the size of hard to reach populations and I remembered seeing work done in the past about leveraging social networks to estimate population size.  Here is some work by Tyler McCormick on this exact topic: Network-Based Methods for Accessing Hard-to-Reach Populations Using Standard Surveys.

Then the baby started crying.  I’m definitely doing this again.  I had a lot of fun doing it.  I don’t even care if you watch.  But I’d prefer if you did.

Here is the video again.





Let’s check in on how full of shit Clay Travis is

Is Clay Travis still full of shit?  Yes.

On March 18, 2020 Clay Travis, notable for being NOT an epidemiologist, posted an article with this headline:

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In that article he said this:

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Well, we are currently nearing 80,000 deaths.

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So, from the bottom of my heart: Fuck you, Clay Travis.



My list of people who are full of shit

This is a work in progress.  Who else belongs on this list?

  • Dr. Phil
  • Clay Travis
  • Warren Sharp
  • Alex Berenson
  • Jerry Falwell, Jr.
  • Gwyneth Paltrow
  • John Edward
  • Jim Carey
  • Ben Shapiro
  • Sean Hannity
  • Bill O’Reilley
  • Jenny McCarthy
  • Donald Trump
  • Eric Trump
  • Donald Trump, Jr.
  • Ivanka Trump
  • Jared Kushner
  • Mike Pence
  • Robert DiNero
  • Robert F Kennedy, Jr.
  • Chiropractors
  • Practitioners of cupping
  • Practitioners of acupuncture
  • Flat Earthers
  • Faith Healers
  • Televangelists
  • Psychics/Mediums
  • Holocaust Deniers
  • Astrologers
  • Men’s Rights Activists
  • Proud Boys
  • Richard Spencer
  • Gavin McInnes
  • Rush Limbaugh
  • Alex Jones
  • Birthers
  • 9/11 Truthers
  • Anti-Vaxxers
  • Darrren Rovell
  • Rovell, D’Nesh D’Souza
  • Climate Change Deniers
  • James Woods
  • Chuck Woolery
  • Laura Ingraham
  • Tomi Lahren
  • Shiva Ayyadurai
  • Kevin Hassett
  • Joe Walsh
  • Richard Epstein
  • James O’ Keefe
  • Ryan Fournier
  • Mike Cernovich

Sports Analytics World Championship of Settlers of Catan: Round 1 recap

Group A

Group A, dubbed the “group of death” by basically anyone who closely follows sports analytics Catan players, saw @chuurveg win the first two games of the group making the third game nothing more than a victory lap for @chuurveg.  Though he almost pulled off the sweep in round one, @sethwalder pulled out a victory in game 3 to advance to the round of 16.

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Group B

@jacksoslow and @yuorme took all the wins in this group with the only other competitor finishing with a second @scott_bush.

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Group C

@dangroob tore through group C posting 3 wins in his 3 games.  @chibearsstats also advance on the back of 3 second place finishes.  Fan favorite @statsinthewild disappointed throughout the first round.  Needing a win in his third game to advance, all he could manage was 5 points and a tie for second.  He’s going to have to answer a lot of questions about whether he even deserved to be in this tournament in the first place.

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Group D

@cfbnate and @hausinthehouse advance out of this group in what was probably the most exciting group of the first round.  Both of the first two games of this group saw ties for second at 9.  After two games @stat_ron was sitting on 18 victory points with no wins.  He then finished dead last in game three to not advance.  His 23 victory points in the first round are the most of anyone who did not advance (tied with @kfloyd34 from group H).

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Group E

Group E saw three different winners in three different games.  @zbinner_NFLinj one the first game of the group and, like an injured NFL player referenced in his screen name, limped across the finish line to somehow win the group with only 22 victory points.  @mtm1013 won game 2 and after his 2nd in game 1, he was very likely to advance to the next round barring some craziness in game 3.  Game 3 saw @chiefsanalytics, whose Twitter name is not @arrowheadanalytics, went big in game 3 for the win, but it wasn’t enough to advance.  Kansas City will just have to be happy with their Super Bowl win this year because the city won’t be bringing how a Settlers of Catan Championship this year.

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Group F

Wow.  What a wild ride this group was!  @punkrockscience wins the group after putting up a 3 spot in game 1.   Even more bizarre, she won the group with the lowest victory point total of the group (21, 22, 23, 23)!  She is the only competitor to win their group and NOT have the most total victory points.  Additionally, @sabinanalytics waited until the very last minute to advance by winning game 3 leaving game 1 winner @nflsharptampa as one of only two people to win a game and not advance (@chiefsanaltics is the other).  @necesarypaper, who ultimately finished 4th in the group, was actually in really good shape to win the group going in to game 3 as a win in game 3 would have put him in first as he had finished second twice already and would have moved him into first place all alone with a win.  @neccessarypaper ends their tournament as the only player to score 7 or more points in all three of their games and not advance out of the first round.

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Group G

With one game left to go in Group G, @jPohlkampHart has already won the group, but that coveted second place is the last spot available for the round of 16 and any of the other three in the group (@msubbiah, @dtrainor4, and @nickwan) can still claim it.  Game 3 will be win an advance for the three unqualified contenders.  If @JPohlkamHart can win game 3, @msubbiah will advance unless @dtrainor can finish alone in 2nd AND make up the 3 victory deficit behind @msubbiah.  @nickwan, the worlds greatest Catan streamer, needs a win and only a win to advance.

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Group H

Last, and kind of least, group H featured @sethpartnow dominating the first two games of Group H, making the third game in the group a exhibition game for Seth.  The second spot was up for grabs with a win an advance scenario for the other the other three in this group.  Ultimately, @Hharris3419 took the other spot with a 10,9,9,6 win in the final game to move on.

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Here is a summary of the first round (color is what place they finished in the group (gold, silver, bronze, and red)):

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Round of 16

Group I

Group I features the winners of group A and B and he runners up in groups C and D.

A1: @chuurveg

B1: @jacksoslow

C2: @chibearsstats

D2: @hausinthehouse

Group J

Group J features the winners of group C and D and he runners up in groups A and B.

A2: @sethwalder

B2: @yuorme

C1: @dangroob

D1: @cfbnate

Group K

Group K features the winners of group E and F and he runners up in groups G and H.

E1: @zbinney_NFLinj

F1: @punkrockscience

G2: @msubbaiah1/@dtrainor4/@nickwan

H2: @Hharrisk3419

Group L

Group L features the winners of group G and H and he runners up in groups E and F.

E2: @mtm1013

F2: @sabinanalytics

G1: @JPohlkampHart

H1: @sethapartnow






The email I just wrote to Bob Pittman and Eric Shanks

Here is the email that I just sent to Bob Pittman, CEO of, and Eric Shanks, Fox Sports CEO.  I encourage you all to send emails to Bob and Eric expressing your dismay for giving Clay Travis a platform to spread this type of dangerous misinformation about coronavirus.  You can find their emails here:

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Bob and Eric, 

I’m writing to you today in regards to Clay Travis.  Recently, Clay has been writing articles  (such as this: related to Coronavirus that contain misinformation about the pandemic.  Given his large readership, this is incredibly irresponsible of your companies to give him a platform to spread dangerous falsehoods about the disease.  When he makes “hot takes” about sports, it doesn’t matter whether he is right or wrong.  But this is literally a matter of life or death. As a result, I’m asking you to please stop giving Clay an outlet to spread misinformation about the worst crisis of our lifetimes.  Let him write about politics or sports or whatever else he wants.  But please stop giving him an outlet to spread his Coronavirus falsehoods.  

For reference, I’ve written a blog post with everything that Clay got wrong in his article from March 18 where he seriously downplays the risk of this virus:





Gregory J. Matthews, Ph.D.

Director of Data Science Program

Associate Professor

Department of Mathematics and Statistics 

P(Death and ICU) does not equal P(Death)

Here is a tweet I saw today.  It’s from April 7.  It’s from Tomas Pueyo, the author is this medium post on Coronavirus from March 10.  (Tomas Pueyo is not a public health expert).  When I first read this, I thought, wait that doesn’t seem right and I tried to reproduce his numbers.  To get to 36%, Pueyo is simply dividing 1.8/5 = 0.36.  But is that right?

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What Pueyo is trying to do here (I think) is calculate the conditional probability that someone dies given that they are in the ICU.  That is:

P(Death | ICU)

By the definition of conditional probability, this is equal to:

P(Death | ICU) = \frac{P(Death \cap ICU)}{P(ICU)}.

So based on this calculation, Pueyo is implying that P(Death and ICU) = 0.018 and P(ICU) = 0.05.  However, he is using an estimate of P(Death) rather than the correct probability of P(Death and ICU) in his numerator.  While these numbers may be close, they are almost certainly not equal to each other:

P(Death \cap ICU) = P(ICU|Death)P(Death)

The only way that these two numbers would be equal to each other is if P(ICU|Death) = 1.  This seems unlikely.  There are certainly people dying from Covid-19 that never make it into the ICU.

So even if Pueyo’s number are completely correct, this calculation is almost certainly an over estimate based on basic intro probability rules.

And I’d like to add two additional points:

  1. We don’t actually know what the mortality rate is of Covid-19 because we don’t have accurate counts of either the numerator (how many deaths) nor the denominator (how many cases) in a mortality rate calculation.  So this number has a ton of error in it.
  2. We already know that age is a huge predictor in mortality rates for Covid-19, so to not include that in the calculation of probability of death of a specific individual of known age makes no sense.

So basically this entire calculation is meaningless.  So my advice is let’s stop playing armchair epidemiologist, especially if you can’t even get very basic probability rules correct!



My thoughts on “Real Time COVID-19 Tracking”

On March 26 Slate posted an article by Tim Requarth entitled “Please, Let’s Stop the Epidemic of Armchair Epidemiology” (which I should mention, convinced me to stop posting my COVID-19 analysis on this very blog).  One of the posts mentioned in the Slate piece was this piece by Abe Stanway on March 14 called “Real Time COVID-19 Tracking”.  There has since been some back and forth between Requarth and Stanway on twitter, and I decided to take a look for myself at Stanway’s blog post.  The post has been reproduced below with my comments in bold. (tl;dr This isn’t a very good article.  It’s extremely ad hoc and riddled with statistical shortcomings).

Note: Two things: 1) I don’t want people to stop blogging.  I’m not trying to “dunk” on anyone here. (I save that for Clay Travis).  Everyone should write more, including Abe Stanway (who seems like a really, really smart guy)!  But this topic is serious, and there is so much misinformation out there.  Please, please, please, get your information from the experts.  I know it may seem like everyone out there can do this stuff, but it’s really complicated.  So please, leave it to the experts.

2) Again the title data scientist rears it’s head.  The author of the article calls himself a data scientist, but he seems to be lacking some very basic statistical skills (based only on what I’m seeing in this article, so I could be completely wrong).  I’m sure Abe Stanway is a very talented (I mean this is straight up really impressive), but I think what I would define as a data scientist and how he interprets the title are very different.  But I suppose that is a discussion for a different blog post.


Real Time COVID-19 Tracking

EpiQuery is a realtime “influenza-like illness” (ILI) tracker. It’s updated on a daily basis. The system was set up in 2016 to track emergency room visits with chief complaints that mention flu, fever, and sore throat. These are not confirmed nor denied to be influenza, nor any other disease. Meanwhile, the US government has severely bungled the COVID-19 test rollout, and we’ve only tested ~15k people total so far. In the absence of widespread testing, we need to rely in EpiQuery (and ILINet, the federal CDC version covering all 50 states) to understand the likely growth of the COVID-19 outbreak.

I agree that the US government has bungled the COVID-19 test rollout.  

I wouldn’t use the word NEED when saying “need to rely on EpiQuery”.  At this point in the article I’m already skeptical.  I think the author is speaking with too much certainty already.  On March 14, even now, there is so much we don’t know about this disease.  We still seem to be learning new symptoms.  

Seasonal peaks highlighted in influenza-like illness in ER visits in NYC from 2016 to present

Daily ER ILI visits since 2016, seasonal peaks highlighted in pink.

I’m going to nit pick here a bit, but I wouldn’t look at the day with the single highest number of cases and call that the peak of flu season.  That’s likely noise.  It would be better to smooth the data using a moving average possibly and then look for the peak of the moving average.  

The chart above shows daily ILI ER visits in NYC. The seasonal peaks are highlighted in pink. We see a very seasonal pattern in the data — every year, there’s generally one major peak in December or January, followed by a gradual decrease in ILI cases. This is the annual flu season, visualized.

Zoomed in ILI ER visit data, with first confirmed NYC COVID-19 highlighted

This is the same data, but zoomed in on 2020. We see our normal seasonal peak on January 29th, and then we see a marked anomaly starting at around March 1st. The anomaly displays a peak of equal magnitude to the regular seasonal peak.

There does appear to be something going on here, but what I would like to see is some of analysis that this is a real signal and not just noise in the data.  It’s not enough to just say it looks like something is happening.  

A double peak flu season appears to be exceedingly unlikely, as it has never occurred in any historical flu season since the start of this data (at least in NYC), nor has it ever occurred with a slope of this magnitude. Therefore, I believe a large percentage of this peak indicates COVID-19 ER visits in NYC, and not nominal flu visits.

This is where this all starts to fall apart.  He uses the term “exceedingly unlikely” to describe the probability that this is just a normal flu.  What is that based on?  4 flu seasons in NYC.   That first sentence starts out making a really strong claim and it just gets weaker and weaker……”it has never occurred in any historical flu season”…….WOW that seems convincing………..”since the start of this data”………….Oh, well that’s only 4 years……….”(at least in NYC)”…………….and it’s only 4 years of one city.  So to say that this is “exceedingly unlikely” to be just a normal flu isn’t supported by anything.  We have no idea what other flu seasons have looked like based on this data.  

Also, are double peaked flu seasons rare?  Nope.  According to William Schaffner, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville: 

We may well have, for the second year in a row — unprecedented — a double-barreled influenza season

Other articles have also mentioned this double barreled flu season, too.  Including this one from which said: 

The 2018-2019 season has been unusual, though, because the flu came in two waves: one that peaked at the end of December, and a second that peaked in early March. The two peaks were caused by two different strains of the flu virus, and the protection given by vaccination early in the season may have waned by the time the second strain appeared.

So literally, just last flu season we saw a double peak season.  So, again, to describe the possibility that this peak is just regular flu is “exceedingly unlikely” is just not a statement supported by any data.  

As a side note, I wonder what other diseases are out there that cause influenza like illness (ILI) symptoms besides actual flu and Covid-19?  I have no idea.  

Another note, this peak could very well be COVID-19.  But there are other possibilities to explain this peak that the author has basically ignored.  The most notable being that he claims it can’t possibly be regular flu when literally last year there was a double peaked flu season where the second peak with in early March.  So I’m not convinced that this is actually a COVID-19 spike, but it could be.  

The fact that the peak starts at around March 1st, and the fact that this was also the date first confirmed case of COVID-19 in NYC, lends further evidence to support that this spike represents COVID-19 cases.

Yeah, but it could just be regular flu.  The author is speaking with too much certainty.  

The data above represents daily ER visits. This means that since March 1st, there have been 8,000 cases of ILI-based ER visits in NYC. Subtracting the nominal flu season data (~3,800 cases over this period, assuming a late season R0 of .95), that means there are likely a minimum of 4,200 COVID-19 cases in NYC as of March 12th.

Ok, this is as armchair-y as it gets.  Where does the 3,800 number come from?  Where does the R0 = 0.95 come from?  Is that a widely accepted value?  No work is shown how the author arrives at 4,200 COVID cases.  The assumptions that the author is making at numerous and substantial.  For starters, he is assuming that every single one of these “excess” cases is COVID-19 (again ignoring the fact that there was a 2 peaked flu season just last year).  Perhaps the most head scratching part of this whole thing comes in the next graph.  


Hand drawn best-fit lines for a normal flu season (pink) and current COVID-19 outbreak (red) 

Hand drawn best-fit lines?!  Yikes.  It is my opinion that anyone who calls them selves a data scientist should understand how to fit a curve to a set of data.  There are numerous options (loess, splines, a simple moving average, etc.).  If I am interpreting this correctly, the author makes it sound like they just…..drew a line through the data.  (That can’t be right, right?)  They then extrapolate (which is dangerous!) what the flu season “should” have looked liked with no COVID-19.  And then attribute ALL of the growth in the curve at the end to COVID-19.  Not great.

I still want to know the answer to this question: Are both the pink and red curves literally hand drawn? 

This analysis should be considered a napkin sketch — a more detailed study could estimate the precise start date in NYC, knowing the R0 of COVID-19 is estimated to be 2.2¹ and working backwards to infer when when Patient 0 actually arrived based this parameter and the current curve in red.

He does claim that this should be considered a “napkin sketch”.  So he is giving caveats.  But then why even do this?  Why spend the time on this?  Is it worth it to spread “napkin sketch” information about a pandemic?  I lean towards no.  

He does give a citation for 2.2 R0 for COVID-19, which I appreciate.  

The true number of COVID-19 cases in NYC is likely several times higher (given the fact that not all cases present to an ER, and ER cases that are not admitted are sent home without any proper quarantine protocols — aka they are sending people home in Ubers or subways), but I will refrain from speculating on an exact number until I find more data. However, assuming the exponential curve holds, the current case count as of March 14th is around 6,300. Despite the napkin math, this data indicates that NYC is currently adding around 1,000 ER admissions of COVID-19 per day and growing fast.

I think this is a loose usage of the term “exponential curve”.  He doesn’t check at all if the curve is actually exponential.  This has a formal mathematical meaning, and the informal use of the term “exponential” often means it’s just growing “really fast”. 

Also, “adding 1000 ER admission per day” wouldn’t be exponential growth.  That’s linear growth.  

Finally, where does 6,300 come from?  Is this an extrapolation?  I don’t follow where that comes from?  

BONUS (or, this is where it gets weird):

Below is a breakdown of the cases by neighborhood.

The epicenter appears to be somewhere in Queens.

This is a neighborhood called Corona. You just can’t make this shit up. Edit: yes, I’m fully aware Corona is *always* the highest density of ILI symptoms. This is likely due to the concentration of hospitals in the area. Regardless, this is a joke, and if you take it seriously, you should get out of the house more (once your isolation period is over, of course!)

If this is a joke, it’s hard to tell.  And it’s and odd place to put a joke.  The entire article is serious in tone, and then the author just throws this in there at the end and claims that this is a joke?  I don’t know man.  In a different context, maybe it would be more obvious that this is a joke.  But it’s not obvious to me that it’s a joke.  

Also, looking at raw cases means pretty much nothing.  Gotta account for baseline population levels.  


All data are available for analysis here. Additional data nationwide can be found on ILINet FluView. Thank you to Ben Hunt for discovering this trove of data, and to Dr. Alfred Illoreta of Mount Sinai and Dr. Ydo Wexler of Amperon for reviewing drafts of this post.


Clay Travis is still a clown

I recently wrote a blog post explaining just how full of shit Clay Travis is about Corona virus.  On March 18, he wrote an article (which I won’t link to here because I’m not giving him clicks) where he said:

Loss of life will be in the thousands, at most, and not the tens of thousands or the hundreds of thousands or the millions as the most terrifying of these forecasts have suggested. 

As of right now, according to Johns Hopkins there have been 9,619 deaths related to coronavirus with FOUR straight  days of 1000+ deaths.  So we should hit 10,000 today, which would make Clay Travis’, who let me remind you is wildly unqualified to make projections like this, unequivocally wrong.  As a result he apologized to his readers for misleading them and said he would do better int he future.

JUST KIDDING!  Of course, he didn’t do that.  He tweeted this today:


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Clay.  Clay.  Let me be very clear about this.  I’ll speak slowly because you don’t seem very bright.  The millions of deaths models were based on the assumption that we did NOTHING to stop the spread of the disease.  But we did.  We’ve been socially distancing, against your advice, mind you, for a few weeks here in Chicago.  And a bunch of other places have been doing it too.  Most of America in fact.

And remember, the current projection for number of deaths is between 100K and 240K…..IF we do everything nearly perfectly.

So.  Clay.  I know you truly believe that you are right.  But you aren’t.  You’re intentionally being a moron.  Please stop.

He followed that tweet up with this gem:

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Clay Travis should be the first one to get one, because the reported deaths are still growing exponentially (It’s possible that the growth rate of reported deaths is slowing down ever so slightly, which is good but definitely not a trend yet).  And that’s REPORTED deaths, which are almost certainly an undercount of the total deaths from Covid-19.  Just take a look at the reported deaths graph below on the log scale. We are going to go crashing through that limit, literally TODAY, where Dr. Travis, M.D. said we’d never get to:

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The moral of the story, as always, is that Clay Travis is full of shit. He doesn’t know what he is talking about in regards to coronavirus.  He also doesn’t know what he’s talking about when it comes to football either.  But in that case it doesn’t matter.  It really matters in this case.  So stay safe and stay at home.  And stop listening to Clay Travis.


Clay Travis said another stupid thing. And this time it actually matters.

Personally, I think Clay Travis is kind of a dipshit.  But he’s not really causing any harm by being a dip shit sports writer.  No matter what his takes are on SEC football, they aren’t life or death, and he’s easy enough to ignore (which I usually do). But recently he wrote a piece downplaying the risks of coronavirus that went beyond just being a regular dipshit sports writer, and crossed into the “guy who is totally full of shit writes about something he knows nothing about and puts people’s lives at risk” territory. And since I have a deep personal policy that when people are full of shit, they should be called out for being full of shit, I have decided to write this post.  And Clay Travis is full of shit.

This kind of writing is really, actually dangerous.  First of all, he has a shit ton of followers (650+ thousand on twitter) who tend to demographically skew younger, and at least some of them will take what he is saying seriously.   What I’m saying it that this article almost definitely led to some people taking too casual a stance on the risks of coronavirus.  I mean if I was a junior at Mississippi State and I read this piece a week ago, I definitely would have gone on spring break.  (Even though every epidemiologist in the entire country would have told me not to go).

Coronavirus is a really dangerous virus, and its definitely not “just like the flu”.  In the interest of full disclosure, I was a “this is just a flu” guy in early February.  I even tweeted out “Thousands of people die of the seasonal flu every year, but let’s panic about coronavirus”.  But turns out I was wrong.  This isn’t the seasonal flu.  Dr. Fauci, someone with actual expertise in this, unlike Clay Travis, predicts at this point that there will be millions of infections and 100,000 – 200,000 deaths from Coronavirus.  And worse case scenarios, with no interventions, again from actual experts, were up to 2.2. million American deaths and 500K in England.  So I was wrong on Feb 1. It turns out this shit is serious. (It’s ok to be wrong and change your mind when you get new information!) New York City is breaking records for 911 calls.  One hospital in New York is describing what’s happening there as “It’s what was happening in Italy”.  But you wouldn’t know any of this by reading C’Lay Travis as he boldly proclaimed on March 18, less than two weeks ago, that:

Coronavirus Infections Are Likely To Peak Next Week

This is completely not true.  It was a stupid thing to say then, and its proven to be so very, very wrong since then.  As such, I’e decided to go through the article and give my comments on it.  (My comments are in bold.  Clay’s original article is in italics.)

I know there is coronavirus doom and gloom everywhere you look on social media right now — in particular with viral predictions of millions of coronavirus deaths on the horizon — but I believe most people are missing the key detail in this outbreak: the number of daily new infections.

The “viral predictions of millions of coronavirus deaths” are actually from a team at Imperial College London led by Neil Ferguson, a professor of mathematical biology.  

Don’t focus on the raw numbers of infection or their growth or death rates — the kind of fear porn you see peddled far and wide on social media — just look at the rates of daily new infection that have occurred in coronavirus outbreaks around the globe and you can divine, to a great extent, what the future is likely to hold.

I think the growth rates and the death rates are EXACTLY what we should be focusing on.  The US is currently on pace to have the number of deaths double every 3 days.  This is above both Iran and China at this point in their outbreaks.  We are still below Italy, but we are on pace to pass Italy in terms of cumulative deaths in under 5 days.  

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As a preliminary, yes, I am a lawyer who now makes a living writing and talking primarily about sports. No, I am not an epidemiologist and I’m not a doctor either. So if you don’t want to read any further or want to denigrate my opinions for that reason, you’re certainly entitled to that perspective.

When the coronavirus outbreak started, I was messing around with the data and making a few posts about SIR models.  But in retrospect I don’t think I should have done this.  Because I’m not an epidemiologist nor a medical doctor (but I am a doctor!).  But I’m way closer to someone who should be commenting on this than a former lawyer who is a below average sports writer. 

That being said, I’m not denigrating Travis’ opinions because he isn’t an epidemiologist nor a medical doctor; I’m denigrating them because they are shitty opinions that aren’t based on reality or data or facts.  

But for the rest of you, let me cite my primary source here at the beginning, I am using this website which has been fantastic at providing factually accurate and up to the date infections around the world.

This site he cites seems to be pretty good.

For those of you who have watched, read or listened to my opinions over the years you know that I love to devour data and I’m not afraid to have opinions that run contrary to the masses. Sometimes those opinions focus on sports, other times they deal with politics, media, or business. When I become fascinated by a subject, I can’t stop thinking about it, I want to consume all the information I can about a particular subject.

When those opinions are about sports, politics, the media, or business, no matter how bad (and believe me they are bad opinionsSo bad.)  But these opinions about a global pandemic can cause actual harm.  For some reason, Mr. Travis has about 650+ thousand twitter followers.  That’s enough people who read his stuff to do some real damage.  

And for the past month I have been absolutely fascinated by the coronavirus outbreak around the world. I’ve spent hundreds, if not thousands, of hours reading about this virus and studying the public data arising from outbreaks in countries all over the world.

Many nights in the past several weeks, especially since sports has been shut down, I have slept three or four hours because I haven’t been able to stop devouring information before waking up at 4:30 in the morning to do my national sports talk radio show. And for those of you who have listened, watched or read what I’ve been saying you know that I’ve been more optimistic about America’s ability to withstand this viral outbreak than most people have.

Optimism is a great thing.  I just don’t know how anyone can look at the data that we are seeing now, or on March 18th when he wrote this, and be that optimistic.  

As a result I’ve been denigrated online by many media members with blue checkmarks by their names on Twitter for not being enough of an alarmist, for downplaying the threat of the coronavirus to our nation’s health. That hasn’t been my intent at all, my intent, as it always is, has simply been to share factual data with my audience. As I always say, you can disagree with the opinions I come to based on the underlying facts, but I struggle to ensure I get all my facts right, especially in cases such as these.

But Clay got all the facts wrong here.  

While most in the United States have been focusing on the United States outbreak I’ve paid quite a bit of attention to what’s happened in China, South Korea and Japan.


Because all three of these countries had coronavirus outbreaks before ours and all three had essentially ended the viral outbreaks in their respective countries before our outbreak really took root. That is, the factual evidence clearly established that when these countries attacked the spread of the virus, they succeeded.

This is correct.  But South Korea from the very beginning had much higher rates of testing and dealt with the real threat that it was much earlier and more seriously that the United States did.  What South Korea was doing to prevent the spread of the disease, the United States has not done.  

Interestingly, all three countries took different paths to end that outbreak — China, with the worst outbreak in the world to this point, was more draconian in its restrictions, while South Korea and Japan handled their outbreaks with much less significant disruptions to their economies and daily life.

But again, South Korea had robust testing in place whereas “The blundering lack of an effective testing program in the US is an unconscionable failure and has led (and will lead) to more transmission of COVID-19.” Comparing the United States to South Korea (or Japan or China) is not a very reasonable comparison.  

Certainly in the months and years ahead it will make a great deal of sense to study every country’s response in an effort to find out the best possible model to adopt for future pandemics, but as I write this China, South Korea, and Japan have a total of 126 new infections today.

This means all three countries have effectively ended the viral outbreaks they were combating. (It’s certainly possible the virus could re-emerge in the future, but right now it seems to be beaten).

He is right that all of those countries have done a very good job “flattening the curve”.  

Now let’s pivot to our country.

Yesterday the United States saw our highest number of new infections to date, adding 1748 new cases. (It’s important to note that daily “new” cases doesn’t mean new in the context of they just happened. “New cases” are the result of infections that generally occurred five or more days in the past.)  As I write this we are on track to exceed yesterday’s number of daily new infections again today and probably for the next several days as well. (If you watch the White House press briefings and listen to Dr. Birx –who has been PHENOMENAL in speaking to the media, alongside of Dr. Fauci — she forecast this occurrence several days ago. Letting astute listeners know that as the testing ramped up in a big way in this country the number of infections would surge as well.)

While Dr. Birx has received some praise, she has also been substantially criticized. Harvard Epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch for instance described Birx’s takes like this: 

Lipsitch called Birx’s characterization of the current coronavirus situation in the U.S. “rosy” and even “deceptive.”

But, and this is key, despite the number of new daily infections that doesn’t mean the virus is continuing to spread at this rapid of a rate, it means that we are catching up to the infections that have already occurred in the days and weeks prior to our aggressive action. That is, since the average incubation for this virus is five days, pretty much everyone testing positive today got the virus before the social distancing and quarantines began in substantial numbers in this country.

He’s not entirely wrong here.  It was possible that the rate would slow.  But given that there are still huge areas of the country that weren’t doing social distancing then (and some areas STILL aren’t doing it!), there was no reason to believe that the rates would go down.  

Right now the fear porn purveyors — all too many of whom are in the media — are spinning these infection numbers as hard as they can to terrify people and convince them we are about to descend into abject despair. That our efforts to combat the virus are failing. But the number of daily new infections is a rearguard action, it’s measuring where we were several days ago in the fight against the virus, not where we are today.

He really needs to cite specific examples here of where the media is “spinning these infection” numbers.  I’d love to see what he was talking about.  “Our efforts to combat the virus” do seem to be too little too late in a bunch of places.  A lot of states in the US didn’t put in stay at home orders until after Travis wrote this article and some states STILL haven’t made stay at home orders (i.e. Florida).  So I’m not sure why anyone thought that the rates of infections would slow.  

And I think that means most of the people panicking in this country right now are missing the signal amid the noise.

Peak new daily infection rates in this country are closer than most think and, and this is significant, hitting a daily new infection peak is a very good thing because it signals we are moving to the backside of our outbreak.

This claim isn’t supported at all by any thing available right now let alone on March 18th when this was written.  I have no idea where he got this idea from.  

And I think we’re going to hit peak new daily infections very soon.

So at the time we had had two days in a row (March 16 and 17) with 22 and 23 deaths, respectively.  On March 18, there were only 10 deaths.  But the overall trend in deaths and confirmed cases was growing right on track with exponential growth and the very next day, March 19, there were 82 deaths recorded.  

Travis has since been proved monumentally wrong, with each of the last 9 days having more deaths than the previous one including March 28 when there were 445 deaths, the most in a day yet.  (Source: Johns Hopkins)

How soon?

Well, the data in other countries suggests that our peak daily infection rate is likely to come next week.

Again, it makes no sense to compare the United States to other countries that had testing in place very early and took the threat seriously from the beginning.  On March 18, we were already on a different than South Korea and Japan.  On March 18, out exponential adventure was just beginning.  Japan and South Korea had already flattened.  Here is what those countries looked like on March 18.  So it’s really hard to defend these statements given the information that he had at the time.  

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Since then, he’s been even wrongerer: 

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(Source: Johns Hopkins)

How can I project this?

By looking at what already happened in China, Japan and South Korea.

I mean, again, this makes no sense.  Notably South Korea had testing WAY, WAY, WAY ahead of the US.  South Korea was doing proportionally about 6X the amount of testing the US was by the middle of March.  And in February the US was basically doing no testing: 

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As I said earlier in this article, those countries have a total of 126 combined new infections today.

That’s because once their infection rate began to decline it do incredibly rapidly, the inverse of the rapid rise.

In other words this virus ramps up rapidly, but it also declines rapidly.

There were  several counter-examples to this even at the time including Iran and Italy.  

Okay, some of you are saying, but those Asian countries did X, Y, and Z and we aren’t doing X, Y, and Z!

Yup.  So why bother even saying it! 

Well, let’s leave Asia behind and move to Europe, in particular to Italy, which has been the fear porn proxy for  most American social media users. “ITALY, ITALY, ITALY THEY WAIL! Look at the curve in Italy! We match it perfectly we are never going to be able to survive!”

Yes, Italy has suffered a substantial loss of life — 2503 as I write this afternoon — but as a result of this loss of life Italy has undertaken drastic measures to fight the virus. And, significantly, these drastic measures work and they appear to work rapidly against the virus.

Italy recorded its 10,000th death on March 28.  They have begun to flatten their curve.  The United States is about 8 or 9 days behind Italy and it’s true we haven’t seen the same rates of growth in the death rate at Italy, but we also haven’t flattened out curve at all.  Additionally, we are on pace to pass Italy in deaths in around 4 days. 

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On March 14th Italy hit 3,497 daily new infections. On March 15th Italy hit 3,590 new infections, the viral peak for daily new infections so far in their country. Then came 3,233 new infections on March 16th and 3,526 on March 17th. Now it’s still possible, of course, that the number of new daily infections could pop above 3,590, the present high set on March 15th — update they did on 3/18 after I clicked publish — but even with a still vacillating total infection number it seems pretty clear that at a minimum Italy has hit an infection plateau. (The number of daily deaths also peaked in Italy on March 15th at 368 — a new peak death rate came on March 18th after publication — and has declined since then.)

Does it seem “pretty clear that at a minimum Italy has hit an infection plateau” based on the plot below?  I have no idea how anyone could make that statement looking at the plot below.  

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And in fact, Travis was wrong, again.  Daily deaths in Italy have continued to grow including 919 and 889 on March 27 and 28, respectively.  Not exactly a plateau.  

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Far from being an example of exponential growth run wild, Italy stopped the coronavirus’s growth of daily new infections in its country in the space of a week. (This is why so many of these viral epidemiologist studies that go viral on social media are worthless. All of them presume nothing changes. If you want a fascinating read about a man who saw all this before the Chinese outbreak ended, go read the opinion of Micheal Levitt, a biophysicist who won the Nobel prize in chemistry.

In the second paragraph so this article, it states “Although his specialty is not in epidemiology” and the article should have ended there.  This exact phenomenon of armchair epidemiology is exactly why I stopped doing any analysis (other than simple graphs) of coronavirus.  This guy is clearly really smart.  But he’s not an epidemiologist.  He’s a guy who knows a lot about Chemistry.  I’m not saying that this guy couldn’t do epidemiology, but this “analysis” that he did seems relatively ad hoc.  There are plenty of other better places to get information on this from actual epidemiologists who have been studying this exact stuff for decades.  So I’ll continue to play around with the data privately, but I won’t be posting any analysis because, it was pointed out to me, that misinformation and weak analysis can be very dangerous.  When someone screws up an analysis on sports data, it doesn’t put anyone in danger.  

Here’s the essence of Levitt’s analysis from that article: “The rate of infection of the virus in the Hubei province increased by 30% each day — that is a scary statistic. I am not an influenza expert but I can analyze numbers and that is exponential growth.”

Had the growth continued at that rate, the whole world would have become infected within 90 days. But as Levitt continued to process the numbers, the pattern changed. On February 1, when he first looked at the statistics, Hubei Province had 1,800 new cases a day. By February 6, that number had reached 4,700 new cases a day.

But on February 7, something changed. “The number of new infections started to drop linearly and did not stop,” Levitt said. “A week later, the same happened with the number of the deaths. This dramatic change in the curve marked the median point and enabled better prediction of when the pandemic will end. Based on that, I concluded that the situation in all of China will improve within two weeks. And, indeed, now there are very few new infection cases.”  

Yeah.  But again, China basically shut everything down.  It took a lot for them to stop the spread.  And the US hasn’t done nearly enough.  

Back to Italy, the data now reflects that from this point forward their infections will begin to descend, just like happened in China. And if Italy’s infection rate descends like they did in China, Japan and South Korea that will be a rapid descent which will allow a rapid return to normal life.

There was actually no evidence this would happen then, and it definitely didn’t happen.  

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Now Italy appears to be further along in its viral outbreak than either France, Spain, Germany, or England are, but the lessons of Italy appear to reinforce the lessons of China, Japan and South Korea. Indeed, both France and Spain also appear to be close to hitting their peak numbers of new daily infections also. (By the way, the most interesting data point I have seen is from Germany. Somehow Germany has 11,973 infections and only 28 deaths. That’s a death rate for infected patients of .23%. What are they doing better than everyone else? Because that rate of death is very similar to the flu.)

Once again, Travis was wrong.  The black line is where Travis claimed that France and Spain were “close to hitting their peak numbers”.  Not sure how he reach that conclusion, but he was…….not correct.  

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It IS interesting that Germany has a lower death rate.  But there are a ton of possible reasons for that.  

Which is why if you extrapolate the data from China, Japan, South Korea, Italy, France and Spain to the United States then it seems highly likely that our rate of new daily infection will peak sometime late next week.

Firsr off, extrapolation is dangerous in general. Extrapolation by a below average sports writer is really, really dangerous.  Second, if he had actually extrapolated using exponential growth, he would have been more or less correct on Spain and France.  

From that point forward we will be on the backside of this particular outbreak and our daily infection rate will decline rapidly.


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That is, I believe rates of daily new infection in America will peak and then begin to drop precipitously starting at the end of next week. That doesn’t mean that new hotspots might not emerge around the United States or that our fight against the coronavirus is over, but it does means there’s a very good chance the worst of our outbreak will have passed by next week.


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We will, in the words of Dr. Fauci, have flattened the curve.

As mentioned before, Dr. Fauci just today estimated there would be 100,000 – 200,000 deaths in the US.  

What does that mean for America?

Well, since this is primarily a sports site it means our sports may well return faster than we thought. Already the KBA and CBA, the two pro basketball associations in Korea and China, are preparing to start back up their leagues in those countries.

Sites that are “primarily sports” are probably the least equipped to do arm chair epidemiology.  I have a Ph.D. in statistics and did a post-doc in a school of public health, and even I’m refraining from doing any (more) armchair epi.  And I’m way closer to qualified to do it.  

But, much more significantly, it also means our economy may well bounce back more rapidly than many fear. Hopefully by early to mid-April we can begin to embrace a bit more normalcy in our lives once more.


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And in what might be the most lasting legacy of this outbreak, hopefully we will have put in place a series of pandemic systems to allow us to respond more rapidly to more significant and deadly outbreaks that might arise in the future.

At this point I would like to remind people that Donald Trump shut the federal pandemic office in 2018.

The good news is this virus is (probably) not going to kill you and we (likely) only have about a week until we hit the viral peak of new daily infections in America. Loss of life will be in the thousands, at most, and not the tens of thousands or the hundreds of thousands or the millions as the most terrifying of these forecasts have suggested. That doesn’t mean you should stop social distancing and staying at home if you’re ill, by the way, but it does mean that this containment is likely going to work very, very well.

We are on pace to hit 10000 in 6 days.  This is such an egregiously incorrect statement to make a week ago when this article was written.  Not a single expert I have read would have agreed with Travis last week and he’s going to be proven wrong in about 6 days (unless somehow there is a miracle).  

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What should you do if you believe my forecast is accurate? Buy stocks. I believe Wall Street has baked in far worse expectations than what the reality of this coronavirus will represent.

So if you like getting your epidemiology advice from a shitty sports writer, why not also get investment advice!  The stock market has gone up since this article was written after the passage of the $2 trillion bail out.  It will be really interesting to see what happens to the stock market in the next year.  And Travis may well be right that you should be buying stocks.  But what’s that saying about a dead clock?  

That’s why I spent all morning buying stocks myself. Yes, I’m putting my money where my mouth is.

The stock market could skyrocket in the next 6 months, and Travis would make a bunch of money.  In fact, I hope the market goes up and I wish him all the best in his investments.  But he’s still be wrong about his coronavirus projections.  

And, by the way, if you hate me and you believe I’m totally wrong in my forecast, you’re entitled to that opinion as well. Indeed, if I personally end up dying of the coronavirus, you have my full permission to make as much fun of me as possible on social media.

To make fun of someone who died of coronavirus, you’d have to be an absolutely shitty person.  I do very much dislike Clay Travis, but I don’t want him to die and I certainly won’t make fun of him if he does die.  That is unthinkably shitty.  

“Writer who said no one would die of COVID 19 dies of COVID 19” is a hell of a headline.

I’d click on that link.

And like most of you I’d be too busy to actually read the article, but I would make a witty and sarcastic comment and share it with all my followers, ensuring it was one of the top trending topics for the day. So have at it.)

The reality is, spoiler alert, we’re all going to die.

But the evidence from around the world suggests that for the vast, vast majority of us, it won’t be from this virus.

This I agree with.  We are all going to die.  And for the vast, vast majority of us, coronavirus won’t kill us.  But it’s possible that most of us will personally know someone who dies from corona.  

That is all for now.  Stay safe.  Stay home.  Here is what to do if you get sick. And please, please, please, don’t get your pandemic information from dipshit sports writers.  (Or dipshit constitutional scholars).


Coronavirus and Exponential Growth

I’m continuing to marvel at just how well an exponential model fits the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus.  The plot below shows the real number of confirmed cases (on a log10 scale) for Italy, US, Spain, and France to the left of the black vertical line.  It’s nearly perfectly linear!  To the right of the vertical black line we have the projections should this exponential growth continue.  I’ve also provided some basic output from the models for each country, including estimated regression coefficients, R^2 (i.e. how close to exponential is it), and when each country is expect to hit certain number of cases if the current trend were to continue.

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Here is what is looks like on the raw scale:

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All models are simple linear regression with log(confirmed cases) as the response and time since March 1 as a predictor (i.e. March 1 is 1, March 2 is 2, etc.).  Projections are based on the assumption that exponential growth continues as current rates (hopefully this turns out to be a bad assumption!)

United States

Current number of confirmed cases (as of March 17): 6,421

beta = .283 (.275, .290)

growth rate = exp(.283) = 1.327 (1.317, 1.336)

R^2 = .9978 (!!! That’s so exponential!!!!)

Expected to be at X cases:

X = 10,000: March 19

X = 100,000: March 27

X = 1,000,000: April 4

X = 10,000,000: April 13


Current number of confirmed cases (as of March 17): 7,699

beta = .257 (.239, .275)

growth rate = exp(.257) = 1.293 (1.270, 1.316)

R^2 = .9846

Expected to be at X cases:

X = 10,000: March 18

X = 100,000: March 27

X = 1,000,000: April 5

X = 10,000,000: April 14


Current number of confirmed cases (as of March 17): 11,748

beta = .322 (.308, .337)

growth rate = exp(.322) = 1.380 (1.360, 1.401)

R^2 = .9931

Expected (or actual date) to be at X cases:

X = 10,000: March 17 (Actual Date)

X = 100,000: March 24

X = 1,000,000: March 31

X = 10,000,000: April 7


Current number of confirmed cases (as of March 17): 31,506

beta = .186 (.178, .194)

growth rate = exp(.186) = 1.204 (1.195, 1.214)

R^2 = .9939

Expected to be at X cases:

X = 10,000: March 10 (Actual Date)

X = 100,000: March 23

X = 1,000,000: April 4

X = 10,000,000: April 17


Code can be found here.

Follow me coding on Twitch here.