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About this blog: I am a native of Alameda County, grew up in Pleasanton and currently live in the house I grew up in that is more than 100 years old. I spent 39 years in the daily newspaper business and wrote a column for more than 25 years in add...  (More)

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Be aware of hyperbole in numbers and media hype

Uploaded: Mar 31, 2020
Today we will get the formal order from Bay Area health departments that the shelter-in-place order will be extended through April—San Francisco officials already announced it Monday.

This move was foreshadowed last week when county education departments ordered schools to remain shut with students being taught online through April.

The order provides a degree of certainty for everyone, but is devastating for restaurants, hotels and other hospitality businesses to say nothing of personal service providers such as barbers, hairstylists and others in that arena. Just how they will pay their bills in April and May without income for seven weeks will send some to Amazon and similar companies that are hiring as many people as they can. Just how the hugely expensive federal bailout will play for them remains to be seen.

In the meantime, here’s hoping that officials use more realistic numbers.

For instance, you’ve got to wonder who was advising Gov. Gavin Newsom when he issued the stunning prediction that 25.5 million Californians could be infected with the coronavirus in eight weeks. What’s more amazing is where the journalists were who should have been challenging that number.

As I write this mid-day March 25, the number of worldwide cases is 454,400 while the cases in the United States are 61,167. The governor’s number was so extreme that it should have prompted immediate questions. When the Ohio medical officer said there were 100,000 positive cases in the state, people pushed back and she admitted it was a “guestimate.”

The governor’s hyperbole went way beyond a simple guess—it made no sense when examined against the situation Italy where the coronavirus was running rampant. In a country of 60 million, 50 percent more than California at 40 million, Wednesday’s total was 74,000.

In the March 25 press briefing, Dr. Elizabeth Birx took on the issue and explained that stories showing half of the countries of Italy or Germany infected were scaring people without facts. She pointed out that there were 80,000 cases in Wuhan and—wildly extrapolating to undiagnosed people with no symptoms to reach 600,000 people. That’s in a population of 80 million. So, apply common sense when reading these absurd numbers.

Random notes on the impact of the coronavirus:

• One friend works 12-hour shifts as nurse at an East Bay hospital. She’s limited to two facemasks per shift to ration supplies.
• Hope Hospice, based in Dublin, issued a request for donations of masks and other personal protective gear for their nurses who visit patients in their homes weekly. The non-profit also announced that it has cancelled its popular Hike for Hope that had been scheduled for May 2.
• The “be serious” note of the week. The landlord/property manager at 2340 Santa Rita Road sent rent increase notes mid-month to tenants. Really. By contrast, the landlord at Shepherd’s Gate’s New Life Store (closed for the virus) at 4014 East Avenue in Livermore notified the non-profit of a 50 percent rent reduction for three months. Hurray for the good guys.
• My friends at Big O Tire in Pleasanton are continuing to operate, but have seen a 50 percent drop in business. They are taking precautions (cleaning keys, key pads and stylus between customers). As I’ve chatted with a few others, that’s not unusual for businesses that are operating with the exception of the grocery stores that have been buried by panic buying.
• With local business pretty much shuttered, local media companies such as the Pleasanton Weekly and the Livermore Independent are suffering without their normal advertising base. Digital readership has soared, but that doesn’t dent the costs of printing and distributing a weekly paper so publication has been suspended. The Independent scrapped its art section for the time being, while I picked up a copy of the Tuesday East Bay Times that was nearly devoid of advertising (Traditionally Tuesday is a slow advertising day, but the pages were virtually ad free). Print revenues have dropped consistently from the Great Recession to date, here’s hoping the management can find a way to weather this crisis. Remember, there was a time when the Weekly was routinely two sections with ample advertising.

What is it worth to you?


Posted by Chuck, a resident of Pleasanton Valley,
on Mar 31, 2020 at 1:54 pm

Hi Tim. The only estimate I have heard from our governor is he expects 56% of the states 22M population to be inflicted with Coronavirus. It equates to less than 12.5M Californians being inflicted so not sure where you came up with 25.5 number. Granted even 12.5M is a wild number that I would like to think proves to be way off from the final number.

Posted by Danville, a resident of Danville,
on Mar 31, 2020 at 2:25 pm

Newsom is actually overall doing a better job than I or my fellow other 3 Republicans still left in this state thought he would do. However, as Tim correctly pointed out, his estimate of total California numbers is so ridiculous, but yet the liberal press did not question their beloved Governor at all about his fake numbers.

I think the reason he so overestimated the numbers is because many experts believe he and Governor Cuomo of NY are going to be competing in 2024 for President and both Governors are trying to suggest they are dealing with more problems than the other, trying to one up each other on their performance. If you watch the daily press conferences from NY, Governor Cuomo consistently points out how the numbers in CA are so low and inconsequential compared to his state.

Posted by Karl, a resident of Birdland,
on Mar 31, 2020 at 3:47 pm

Cuomo or Newsom would be so much better than Biden. I hope the Dems get smart and dump Biden.

Posted by Ennis, a resident of Pleasanton Valley,
on Mar 31, 2020 at 4:18 pm

Ennis is a registered user.

Web Link

From today's White House press conference....100-240K deaths. Hyperbole?

Posted by Jake Waters, a resident of Birdland,
on Mar 31, 2020 at 9:20 pm

The population of California is just a smidgen under 40 million not 22 million.

Posted by BobB, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Mar 31, 2020 at 10:46 pm

BobB is a registered user.

Exponential growth. Good thing we are doing stay at home. Saving many lives.

Posted by Malcolm Hex, a resident of San Ramon,
on Apr 1, 2020 at 2:23 am

From Politico on 03/19/2020:

Newsom laid out a grim scenario if California does not respond decisively: 56 percent of the state's residents, or some 22 million people, could contract the virus in the next eight weeks.

From Capradio 03/19/2020:

Over the next two months, more than half of Californians are likely to contract the coronavirus, Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a letter to President Trump Wednesday. “We project that roughly 56 percent of our population ... will be infected with the virus over an eight week period," Newsom wrote.

From SF Chronicle 03/19/2020:

Newsom said: “In the last 24 hours, we had 126 new COVID-19 cases, a 21% increase. In some parts of our state, our case rate is doubling every four days," he wrote. “We project that roughly 56% of our population ... will be infected with the virus over an eight week period."

Posted by Pete, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Apr 1, 2020 at 8:37 am

Pete is a registered user.

2340 Santa Rita Rd...infill re-development on its way.

Posted by Wombat, a resident of Downtown,
on Apr 1, 2020 at 12:37 pm

Fox: Your #1 Source for Fake News:

Sean Hannity (On 3/9/20): "They're scaring the living hell? out of people and I see it again as, oh, let's bludgeon Trump with this new hoax."

Sean Hannity (On 3/18/20): "By the way, this program has always taken the coronavirus seriously, and we've never called the virus a hoax".

Posted by Jake Waters, a resident of Birdland,
on Apr 1, 2020 at 3:14 pm

I always question those that claim Fox News is fake news. It must be projection, as when the Democrats project against Trump. People as Tucker Carlson are the smartest ones on TV. That is why they have the largest viewing. CNN and MSNBC fall into the pathetic category of propaganda. They have shown that they carry water for Russia and China. Please stop with the hyperboly.

Posted by Karl, a resident of Pleasanton Valley,
on Apr 1, 2020 at 3:50 pm

I have a good example of Fox News telling the truth.

When Congress was working on the $2T coronavirus bill last week, Sean Hannity listed out all of the non-virus related pork the Democrats and Nancy Pelosi wanted to load into the bill. Things like new efficient standards for airplanes.

I actually went and read the draft bill online and everything on his list was in it.

So while Fox does have it's biases, there are cases where they are bringing up issues that the other channels, due to their biases, don't care to bring up.

We don't have Walter Cronkite anymore, unfortunately; the biases of both the liberal and conservative news outlets have caused the American people to lose trust in their media - or at least the smart people on both political sides should not trust them.

Posted by Wombat, a resident of Downtown,
on Apr 1, 2020 at 4:04 pm

@Jake Waters

I would say that Tucker Carlson is among the smartest persons on Fox News. Of course, that's not exactly a very high bar. You can watch many of the rest of them (Trish Regan, Marc Siegal, Jeanine Pirro, Sean Hannity, Ainsley Earhardt, and Laura Ingraham) all making fools out of themselves by first downplaying the threat of coronavirus and then suddenly flip-flopping in mid-March and acknowledging the seriousness of the coronavirus health threat in the following video which features clips of them hanging themselves with their own words.:

YouTube: "How Fox News has shifted its coronavirus rhetoric": Web Link

Hope that you don't rely on these clowns as a trusted source for your news.

Posted by Wombat, a resident of Downtown,
on Apr 1, 2020 at 4:13 pm

Karl wrote "I have a good example of Fox News telling the truth."

Hallelujah! We have witnessed a miracle!

Posted by Tom, a resident of Blackhawk,
on Apr 2, 2020 at 7:44 am

"As I write this mid-day March 25, the number of worldwide cases is 454,400 while the cases in the United States are 61,167" Six days after you wrote this we are now at
962,882 cases worldwide with 216,265 in the US. Hyperbole? I think not. Well at least most people on Fox News have finally gotten the message. Too late but at least they woke up

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