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What is the difference in meaning between "Cases in the last 7 days" and “Cases in the preceding 7 days” in the header in this table?

Suppose that now is July 20th, so what is the difference in meaning between "Cases in the last 7 days" and "Cases in the preceding 7 days"?

  • Does "Cases in the last 7 days" mean "the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 between July 13th and July 19th"?

  • Does “Cases in the preceding 7 days” mean "the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 between July 21st and July 27th"?

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In this document, "last seven days" means "the seven days that end now" or "the seven days that ended when this document was published." The "previous seven days" are meant to be the seven days before that - in other words, the seven days that ended seven days ago.

When you see "previous" or "preceding", you must ask "previous to, or preceding, what?"

If you cannot answer that question, the answer defaults to "now".

However, it is far more common to say "prior" or "previous" if defaulting to "now" than it is to say "preceding".

In this case, you have "the last seven days", and because of the clue from the "prior"/"previous" choice I just told you, as well as the left-to-right bias of English, you properly infer the answer to "preceding what?" The answer is "Preceding 'the last seven days'".

To be explicit: if "now" is "July 20th", the "last seven days" end on July 20th, and "the preceding seven days" end on July 13th.

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    This interpretation is also supported by the next column : "Weekly Case % change"
    – Yorik
    Jul 25, 2023 at 15:55
  • In any event, I try to avoid "last" in technical writing because of the way it can be interpreted either as "previous" or "final". Jul 25, 2023 at 17:13

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