Live Mic: Doc explains misleading coronavirus cumulative number

May 9, 2020, 11:45 AM
Live Mic: Doc explains misleading coronavirus cumulative number...
In this March 30, 2020 photo provided by Chief Nurse Anesthetist Nicole Hubbard, nurses Mindy Brock and Ben Cayer, wearing protective equipment, hold each other and look into each other's eyes, in Tampa General Hospital in Tampa, Fla. “Everybody’s talking about the photo,” says Cayer, 46. It strikes a chord “because we’re all going through the same thing right now and it’s a symbol of hope and love.” Brock, 38, adds: “What’s important is that we stick together, we work together, and we always support each other. And not just Ben and I, but the human race right now.” (Nicole Hubbard via AP)
(Nicole Hubbard via AP)

SALT LAKE CITY — The numbers surrounding COVID-19 cases in Utah changes rapidly: total number of cases, total number of people tested, total number of hospitalizations and total number of deaths. The numbers inform the public on the extent of the pandemic in the world, nation and state, but the cumulative number, in particular, can be misleading. 

Dr. Steven Mobley, a facial plastic surgeon, joins Lee Lonsberry on his 100th episode of Live Mic to discuss the statistics behind the coronavirus crisis.

Daily vs. cumulative

Mobley said every morning he tunes into a major news network and sees the cumulative number of coronavirus deaths in the nation. The cumulative number of anything (vehicle fatalities, precipitation, etc. ) always goes up, he pointed out.

“It’s always going to look scary,” he said. “What we should really be looking at as a nation — it’s a horrible number also — is things that are occurring per day. Are we losing more people yesterday than we were two weeks ago?”

“You’ll see the graph is starting to look more like a horseshoe where we’ve seen a horrible peak and we’re coming down,” Mobley said. “I do get worried when I think this information is being seen by millions of people as they start out their day and it’s scary, and it needs to be presented in a way that gives it perspective.”

Hospital capacity

“I have not seen headlines of there being lines at the hospitals for folks trying to get in. I have not heard any word from anywhere, certainly in Utah, maybe there are some exceptions in New York City, of the capacity of hospitals being maxed out. I have not seen these peaks where people are being turned away; where decisions are having to be made on who gets the ventilator and who doesn’t,” Lee said.

Mobley pointed out that early on in the pandemic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo focused on hospital capacity but now six weeks later that is not mentioned during his daily press briefings.

He added that even the Utah Department of Health website publishes only the cumulative number of hospitalizations and not a daily count.

As of Wednesday, the total number of coronavirus hospitalizations in Utah over the past couple of months stands at 456.

“What does that tell me?” Mobley asked. “Are they at capacity? Are there 456 people in the hospital right now and there were six last week? Are there 20 right now and there were 400 three weeks ago?

“What I sort of struggle with is you know the leaders of our state have that number [of daily hospitalizations]. They know with pretty good certainty how many people are in the hospital right now,” Mobley said. “Why don’t they share that number with us because it might give us good information to make decisions.”

Mobley said if the daily hospitalization count is growing, restrictions on reopening communities need to tighten whereas if that number remains below hospital capacity, communities could slowly begin to reopen.


Live Mic with Lee Lonsberry can be heard weekdays from 12:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app.


How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus 


COVID-19 coronavirus is transmitted from person to person. It is a virus that is similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading: 

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.  
  • Don’t touch your face. 
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet) 
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.) 
  • Get a flu shot. 

Resources for more information: 



State of Utah: 

Utah State Board of Education 

Utah Hospital Association 

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707 

National Links 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization 

Cases in the United States 





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Live Mic: Doc explains misleading coronavirus cumulative number