COVID Numbers and Priorities

“I don’t know how to explain to you why you should care about other people.”
-Lauren Morrill

Here in the U.S., we’ve reached the point that 1 in 500 Americans have died of COVID.

Reading the responses to this news has been enlightening. Some people have immediately pointed out that 1 in 500 is only 0.2%. Others responded that 0.2% of the U.S. population is roughly 660,000 dead.

All of which is correct. But while the mathematics are equivalent, they don’t necessarily suggest the same thing.

The 0.2% figure is the chance, all else being equal, of you as an individual dying of COVID. If your focus is on your individual safety, then 0.2% looks like pretty good odds. Of course, everything else isn’t equal. Some states have higher COVID rates than others. Some people have more risk factors. (By the way, one of the biggest risk factors these days is being unvaccinated. I’m just saying…)

The 660,000+ number, on the other hand, is about the damage this virus has done to us as a country. COVID has killed far more Americans than died in World War II. It’s killed more than the entire population of Vermont. From a community standpoint, COVID has been devastating.

And this doesn’t even touch on the roughly 10% of people who contract long COVID, meaning they’ll have long-term health consequences from this disease.

Now, I’m glad that the odds of me personally dying of COVID are relatively low. But when I see people focusing exclusively on that 0.2% figure as a way to attack COVID precautions, well, it makes it very clear who those people really care about, and who they don’t.