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Ever since I first cracked open the book Freakonomics in 2005, I've been addicted to the concept. The whole idea behind Steen Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner's groundbreaking strategy was to look a "the hidden side of everything", especially the numbers. I'm not going to get really deep into it, but I highly suggest you check it out.

I bring that up only to express that my love of that concept has left me asking a lot of questions with the numbers being provided during the COVID-19 pandemic. Not just numbers from governments and officials that have been constantly revised to remove errors and duplicate counts, but from media outlets as well. It's always important to see what the source has to gain from the numbers being provided...and that goes both ways.

Government leaders who have been trying to reduce COVID mitigation faster would have reason to show lower numbers, while those who are trying to restrict the public further (or longer) would have reasons to show higher numbers. Different media outlets would have the same considerations depending on who they're trying to attract to their brand.

But more often than not, the numbers are just the numbers, and the reasons are generally more obvious than some want to believe.

While many states are reopening different aspects of their economies from their COVID restrictions, there are two very opposite results taking place. One centered in the Midwest to Northeast, and one across the South. While the states to the north are seeing cases rise, states in the south are seeing cases drop dramatically. So what's the difference.

It's the kids.

In Michigan, their spike in cases is being driven not by variants or a lack of vaccines, it's almost entirely driven by school age kids. The case number trends are similar in New York and New Jersey as well. Two states that have something in common with Michigan, in person school resumed earlier this month.

Both New York and New Jersey open their schools back up in March. Within weeks they saw COVID cases rise, and with Michigan being able to pin the rise on school age kids, it's pretty likely that you can share that same theory onto the other states seeing spikes as well. Especially since they literally just reopened schools.

However when you look at southern states like Texas, Mississippi, and Arkansas, you have three states who are effectively WIDE OPEN. These states have 100% occupancy on economic activity, and only one of them (Arkansas) still has a mask mandate in place. Texas for example has seen non-stop decreases in their COVID numbers, including cases and hospitalizations, ever since they dropped all COVID mitigation.

To further the idea that schools, and not COVID variants, are to blame for the COVID case spike, Texas is likely not seeing the same spikes as northern states because a lot of their schools have been open this whole time. With plenty of kids going back to in-person learning in 2020. Mississippi also opened their schools for the year in 2020, as did Arkansas schools.

Three states who all opened schools months ago, and have recently opened their states entirely, are not witnessing the same spike in COVID cases as their northern counterparts who kept their schools closed for in-person learning. It would appear there's correlation, especially with the information provided by one of those states, Michigan, showing what age groups are testing positive.

Going back to how people can use this information to push a narrative is important. Because if these spikes in COVID cases can be directly attributed to school age kids, like in Michigan, this information isn't as dire as some may paint it.

In the state of Louisiana, there were 10,080 COVID-19 related deaths as of March 26th, 2021. Of those, there were 7 deaths listed under the age of 18. That's just 0.07% of all COVID deaths in the state. Not 7%, not 0.7%, 0.07% of all deaths. Meaning a spike in that age group doesn't translate into the most dire outcome of a COVID diagnosis.

So when you see the scary headlines about COVID spikes, check where they are, and what age range the spikes come from.

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