UPDATE: Hours after this piece was published, the plus/minus feature disappeared from the state website. Original post follows.
The state of Iowa’s official website for information about the novel coronavirus pandemic incorporated a few tweaks this week. The most noticeable: Department of Public Health staff update various statistics throughout the day, rather than once in each 24-hour period. During her May 18 news conference, Governor Kim Reynolds asserted that the new practice would make data on COVID-19 more “transparent.” Critics pointed out that the frequent updates would make it harder for Iowans to keep tabs on daily changes in coronavirus cases, tests, hospitalizations, and deaths.
Reynolds didn’t announce another addition to the website, which has attracted relatively little notice. Several of the bar graphs can now be adjusted to project the number of daily cases, tests, hospitalizations, or deaths weeks or months into the future.
The trouble is, those projections are not grounded in any principles of epidemiology.