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A stealth virus, the missing infected and playing the long game: Inside the COVID-19 numbers

A nurse holds a test vile at a drive-through clinic at Ste-Justine Children Hospital in Montreal, on Wednesday, April 1, 2020. The Quebec government has expressed concerns for the diminishing supplies of personal protective equipment. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

In today’s Big Story podcast, POP QUIZ! If a province’s report says it has 426 new cases of COVID-19 in one day, which brings the provincial total to 2392 and represents a 22% increase day-over-day—but the number of test results on that day tops 6,200, a figure more than double the total previous day’s test results, when 260 new cases were found…is that a good day or bad day in the fight against this virus?

The Coronavirus numbers come in a swirl, the data is not always accurate, and sometimes it’s weeks behind. And yet everyone who has ever made a chart in Excel has a theory on what today’s numbers mean for our effort to flatten the curve. Today, we’ll tell you why the datasets aren’t reliable, which numbers really matter and how we’re doing—or how we think we’re doing—based on the numbers we have. If you’ve been confused by conflicting reports based on the same numbers, this episode is for you.

GUEST: Dr. Tim Sly

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