Ken Hardie, who was elected as the Liberal MP of Fleetwood-Port Kells in 2019 with a 38% vote (source), recently posted a map of North America with the caption, “…and in other news, evidence of a mysterious force field along the border with the US…”
Something about it smelled a bit off, and I decided to do some digging.
Hardie said that the map was the Johns Hopkins map of coronavirus infections, so my first stop was the COVID-19 map section on the Johns Hopkins University website. I wanted to start by making sure that the true source had been cited and that the red dots were actually supposed to represent confirmed cases, both of which I was quickly able to ascertain were correct. Each red dot represented cumulative confirmed cases throughout the world’s countries.
I zoomed in a bit and saw something very interesting: the size of the dots didn’t change. So I zoomed in a bit more. Again, the dot sizes remained static.
Now, you’ll notice that in the original post, Hardie’s version of the map was not zoomed in at all; it was a cropped part of the default map view – the world view. So each of those circles, which we can see are tiny once we zoom in, are merged together with all the other tiny circles (which aren’t proportionally tiny at all once the map is zoomed out, since the circle sizes are static) and turned the USA entirely red, as was seen in the original post by Hardie. But Canada looked very different. In Canada, there was only one red dot per province. Noticeably, the dots weren’t situated on major cities; each was apparently randomly placed halfway between its province’s southernmost and northernmost borders.
As a resident of British Columbia, I know for a fact that there were multiple cases in Vancouver, but Vancouver didn’t have a red dot on it. So I clicked on BC’s solitary little red dot, which was sitting beside Nanika Lake, and discovered that there had been 2,790 cumulative confirmed cases and 168 deaths in British Columbia.
Then I scrolled down due south to the state of Washington. I wanted to take a closer look at what their little red dots represented. I clicked on the red dot on Clallam County: 33 cases, 0 deaths. King County reported 9,211 cases, 0 deaths. Ferry County had one confirmed case and no deaths, but even that single case warranted yet another little red dot in the state of Washington.
Wishing to compare apples to apples, I tried to contrast testing rates between Washington and British Columbia, but was unable to find any up-to-date information on BC’s testing rates.
Investigating the Johns Hopkins site further, I found an incidence rate comparison filter. Interestingly, Alberta recorded an incidence rate of 174.57 per 100,000 people, while the state of Montana (which is the state directly to Alberta’s south) recorded an incidence rate of only 67.09 per 100,000 people.
Finally, I compared a population density map with the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 infection map and found a very strong correlation between the two.
So to sum it up, there are many problems with the implications of Hardie’s post. The little red dots are static, meaning that when the map is zoomed out, they all blend together. The USA reports cases per county, but Canada reports cases per province. Each US state reports testing rates; Canada does not. At the end of the day, it seems that the number of cases is more linked to population density than any other factor, and there certainly isn’t any kind of force field protecting Canada.
But hey, orange man bad. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯