What does ‘with’ mean?

Many reports on covid hospitalizations report admissions ‘with’ covid, yet people seem to interpret that to mean “due to.”

If you point out that ‘with’ does not mean ‘due to’, you may be accused of minimizing the situation rather than trying to apply basic reading comprehension.

Some of the negative blow back comes from those inexperienced with interpreting numbers. For them, the difference in meaning between ‘with’ and ‘due to’ seems trivial enough that they make a leap on what the report says, “what they really means is ‘due to.'”

What’s more is they do this without realizing it. When they think back to the report they remember the meaning they created for the report rather than what the report actually said.

The movie Inception was about implanting an idea in someone’s mind so that they thought it was their own idea.

What I describe above is reverse-inception, causing someone to believe their own idea is someone else’s. In this case, they think the idea that hospitalizations due to covid is what the reports say, when it is not.

This reminds me of when reporters asked Lance Armstrong if he took performance enhancing drugs and he would respond, “I never failed a drug test.”

Many would interpret Armstrong’s answer as a strong “no” when he didn’t directly say no. He reverse-incepted the answer into our heads. Later, he admitted that answer was his way of feeling like he wasn’t lying, even though he knew how folks would interpret it.

This is not to say that more folks aren’t being hospitalized due to Covid or having serious illness due to Covid. If you think that’s what this says, then you are reverse-incepting an idea onto me.

This is just to point out that if you read the reports on covid hospitalizations, carefully, you will notice they usually do not provide clear enough info on the number of folks hospitalized due to covid to draw sound conclusions.

When I point this out to folks, they ask, what does the report mean then? I’ve used some version of this simplified example to explain it.

Let’s say 100 kids per week are hospitalized for broken arms and all those admitted to the hospital are tested for Covid as standard practice, which they are.

Last week, 10 of those 100 kids tested positive for covid, while 10% in the general population were also testing positive.

This week, Omicron blows through the area and now 25% of people in the general population test positive for covid. Those familiar with data will expect to see this trend in test positivity in hospital admissions, as well.

Sure enough, the local hospital reports that 25 admissions tested positive for covid this week vs 10 last week, therefore the number of kids admitted to the hospital with covid more than doubled!

Here’s what they don’t mention: those 25 were admitted for broken arms, not covid; that the total number admitted for broken arms is on par with the previous week; that the test positivity rate was in-line with the rate in the general population in the area.

They also don’t mention how many people were admitted specifically for covid.

The next stage of reverse-inception is to doubt that the reports would dare be that misleading, because it seems like it would be too easy to be debunked and surely someone would so!

Folks did the same with Lance Armstrong. When they realized that his response didn’t directly deny taking drugs, they would reason that there’s no way he would dare be that misleading because it would be too easy to debunk. And, yet it took years to do so.

Read reports on covid carefully. Pay attention when you hear yourself saying things like “I think what they really mean is…” or “they are making it sound like…”. Those are sure signs that you may be getting reverse-incepted.

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