‘Lies, damned lies and statistics’

In college, I actually enjoyed the maths behind economics and statistics. Used properly, statistics and demographics will help the leadership of the Cayman Islands reopen the borders safely. Misused, statistics are not worth the paper on which they are written. Mark Twain had it right when he wrote about using numbers to prove a point. 

The 15 Aug. Compass article disclosing the Economics and Statistics Office population research figures is one of those instances and requires both examination and simple conclusions of fact. 

Government appears to have arbitrarily used the statistical upper limit (with only 2.5% confidence) of 70,686 people from the ESO study and declared that figure as the ‘new’ population denominator for the premier’s 80% vaccination (of total population) prerequisite for phased reopening of borders.  

Government ignored the most-likely estimated figure (the mean, or average) of just under 66,000. This presumption added almost 5,000 people (7.4%) to the population and put the 80% vaccination target further out of reach, just when, despite raffles and prizes, it was starting to slow down. 

Oddly enough, the probability that the population is the upper limit of 70,686 is exactly the same as the probability that it is the lower limit of 60,886. The difference is that 60,886 would not support the premier’s higher-number target or narrative.

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Using the ESO statistics report, one can summarise:
1. With 95% confidence, the mean population is 65,786, plus or minus 4,900.
There is only 2.5% confidence that the population is 70,686 or larger.

Using the upper limit of a statistical range with only 2.5% confidence is inaccurate, arbitrary and defeats the purpose of using population estimates in the first place. 

With 95% confidence, government and ESO can estimate:
• The population aged 12 or older is 87.5% of total, with a mean figure of 57,738.
• The share of newborn to 11-year-old children (who are ineligible for vaccination) is 12.5%, with a mean figure of 8,248.

As of 21 Aug. 2021:
50,884 people have received at least one dose of the vaccine. That is:

• 77.1% of the total estimated population.
• 88.1% of the estimated population eligible to take the vaccine.

48,751 people are fully-vaccinated. That is:
• 74% of the total estimated population.
• 84.4% of the estimated vaccine-eligible population.

What the government can proudly boast (using ESO statistics) is that with 95% confidence, almost 75% of the total population is fully  vaccinated and almost 85% of those eligible for the jab have rolled up their sleeves. Government will continue to encourage the unvaccinated minority of 15% to protect not just themselves, but also their family and friends.  

The Cayman Islands vaccination programme, led by government, the chief medical officer and the Health Services Authority, is a shining example of commitment and perseverance by the population to suppress the spread of the virus. The Cayman Islands leads the entire Caribbean (as well as the western hemisphere), having fully vaccinated 74% of the population. 

While Cayman has the highest vaccination rate in the hemisphere, the borders remain closed to tourism. The futures of thousands of tourism industry workers and hundreds of local tourism-related businesses are on the line for the holidays. 

If the reopening plan gets pushed back or is scrapped by the government, many hotels, condos, resorts, restaurants, vendors, transport operators, boat captains and businesses will be faced with the difficult decision to release their employees just before the holidays and board up their businesses until the island ultimately reopens.  

An additional 2,000 unemployed people (including 85% who did their part and got vaccinated) would be on the streets just before the holidays. This will cast a pall on the entire tourism sector and question the government’s support of stayover tourism. 

Homelessness and poverty on the island have already reached the highest level in years.

When there is not enough water in the river, the rocks are revealed.

Jim Leavitt – General Manager, Grand Cayman Villas & Condos

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