COVID-19 By the Numbers: Part 2 – Hope

To have hope in dealing with COVID-19, one must have perspective. Perspective comes from knowing other numbers. For example, the flu kills 100 people a day in the U.S. (more or less, depending on source). Most people are unaware of the rate at which other diseases kill. Here is a sample (based on numbers from an article in the Jacksonville Daily Record & Observer April 16, 2020, by Matt Walsh):

Heart Disease54,0001,800
Drug Overdoses5,600/186

Including these and other causes, there are over 230,000 deaths/month from “normal” causes (CDC 2017 report). As noted below, about 50,000 COVID-19 deaths have been reported in the U.S.A. since January (let’s call that 3+ months, or 15,000/month). Again, this is for perspective; keep in mind many of those who died had health conditions from which they might have died regardless of COVID-19.

And, putting the numbers in perspective helps, me at least, relieve the pressure that this virus is going to attack me, or each one of us.

Infection Data (data from 4/22/2020 Google news)

# of
Infected *
Per Capita
US840,625328,200,000.26%1 case per 390ppl
Spain208,38946,940,000.44%1 case per 225ppl
Italy187,32760,360,000.31%1 case per 322ppl
Germany149,77183,020,000.18%1 case per 554ppl
UK133,49566,650,000.20%1 case per 499ppl
S. Korea10,69451,640,000.02%1 case per 4829ppl
World2,603,1477,594,000,000.03%1 case per 180,784ppl

*Remember, the infection rate is calculated by those tested so this number is suspect

These numbers tell us that only .26%, or 1/4 of 1%, of the U.S. population, or only 1 in 400 people, based on current known cases have COVID-19 (based on low levels of testing and expected to change as more people are tested) Clearly, this is a highly contagious virus, but realizing this low infection rate provides perspective on how likely one individual is to become infected. I’m not suggesting that social distancing and “safer at home” policies are unimportant in the overall scheme of things. But, for the people who are panicked by the news of the spread of COVID-19, and I know several, calm down and look at the numbers.

Death as %
of Infected
Death as
% of Population
S. Korea2382%.0005%8,277

The same is true with the death rate data. While there are large numbers of deaths, 94% of those who become infected live to tell about it! This should improve as treatments are refined and the number of new cases slows.

So, numbers provide comfort by putting things in perspective. One only need to study the data to reach that conclusion. Again, I’m not attempting to minimize the threat of COVID-19, only trying to bring reason to the discussion while reducing the paralyzing fear, anxiety, and depression being suffered by so many.

David has created some interesting charts designed to give the readers of this blog some hope for the future when we resume our lives.  Although I, like everyone else, hope we will return to “normal” soon, I believe normal will be different from what normal used to be, in the good old days before COVID-19 entered our lives.  I’m not sure why COVID-19 has taken on such an elevated role in the world, given its relatively low incidence, but I can speculate about several reasons.  It is terrible when someone dies for any reason, and although we are right to be concerned about people dying of COVID-19, I wish we would be more concerned about other killers, such as medical malpractice, gun violence, and auto accidents, in addition to the diseases David has mentioned.  When something is new, let’s say, new like the “flavor of the month” ice cream shops used to advertise, it captures people’s attention in ways that the “same old, same old” things do not.  Compounding the situation, of course, are members of the media, who love a good story and know a good story when they see one.  I agree with David that astute, educated interpretations of the data regarding COVID-19 provide hope among all of the negativity that surrounds us.  However, in that I remain skeptical about most people’s ability to decipher all of the charts and graphs being disseminated, I believe many people will be unable to maintain a hopeful outlook.  Perspective is key to how we move forward, not backward, at times like these.  

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