Texas Republicans selected a new party leader at last month’s virtual state convention, overwhelmingly supporting retired Army Lt. Col. Allen West, a former one-term U.S. House member from Florida as chairman over incumbent James Dickey.
West described some state-level actions aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus in the state as tyrannical during his address to delegates during the convention — a criticism that he has carried over to media appearances following his election.
During an appearance on a North Texas radio program on July 27, West talked about the state’s coronavirus response and the recovery rate for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
“When I look at a state like Texas, which has 29 million in population, we’re getting close to I guess about 300,000 or so COVID-19 positive cases — there’s some questions about what a positive case really means — and sadly we’ve lost about 3,900 Texans,” West said. “That’s only .01% of our population. If you just want to look at the facts, and I know everyone is concerned about this resurgence of COVID-19, but again we see more testing, more positive cases but yet the death rate is continuing to drop. I don’t want to see us get to the point where we’re imposing draconian measures, measures that go against our fundamental liberties and freedoms and rights over something that has a 99.9% recovery rate.”
West described the same recovery rate during an interview with a television station in Dallas on Sunday, stating: “99.9% of Texans are able to recover from COVID-19.”
Is that accurate? West’s numbers for positive cases and deaths are outdated and his figure for the recovery rate is wrong.
“The statement that COVID-19 “has a 99.9% recovery rate” is something I would characterize as false,” said Cory Zigler, an associate professor of statistics and data sciences and of women’s health at the University of Texas.
Coronavirus figures in Texas
At the time of West’s statement on July 27, Texas was reporting 385,923 positive COVID-19 test results from molecular tests and 5,713 fatalities connected to the coronavirus. The state has since corrected the number of fatalities for July 27 as 5,489.
West said the numbers he used in his calculation were from mid-July. When asked about the formula he used to calculate his recovery rate — recoveries versus the state’s population — he said it was meant to show the impact of the virus in the state.
“I chose that comparative means because we would use the same methodology to assess any illness affects against the greater population,” he said in a statement (which was later posted to the Texas Republican Party’s Facebook page).
But that’s not true.
Zigler said calculating the recovery rate would involve a count of the people who have been infected with COVID-19 and the count of those who recover — which in West’s definition is all those who did not die. The latest numbers would put that rate closer to 98.7%
Comparing recoveries to the population at-large does not produce a recovery rate.
“You don’t recover from something you’ve never had,” Zigler said.