COVID Numbers and Priorities
“I don’t know how to explain to you why you should care about other people.”
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.
September 16, 2021 @ 10:24 am
Seven years ago, I volunteered to donate a little more than half of my liver to a close relative in need of an organ transplant. (Spoiler: Success! The recipient is alive and well today, though desperately concerned about risk of COVID infection due to immunosuppression.)
The donation involved a six-hour surgery, a week in hospital, and another three weeks off work. The workup before donation involved contrast MRI and CT scans, countless tubes of blood, and multiple doctors’ interviews and exams. I was interviewed by a social worker to confirm that I fully understood what I was agreeing to, and was uncoerced in reaching my decision, and that I could back out at any time.
The risk to a living liver donor was quoted as…about 0.2%: Roughly 1 in 500 donors would be expected to die as a result of the surgery.
In that light, I have two takeaways.
First, look at how much effort the medical profession is willing to go to to try to protect a healthy individual from an eyes-open, fully-informed, 0.2% risk.
Second, if you’ve decided that you’re cool with a 0.2% risk of death, for feck’s sake do something useful with it, instead of wasting it on going vaxless and maskless.
September 22, 2021 @ 10:43 pm
Tiny detail: that’s 0.2% *with a significant part of the population taking measures to prevent infection*. That means that:
1. your risk of death is going to be much higher if you refuse to take common-sense precautions. The same way that speeding while drunk without seat-belts on and with unmaintained brakes gives one a higher risk than someone who is driving sober, at legal speed with seat-belts on and brakes checked, does.
2. Anyone extra who catches covid is going into an already strained medical system, which means they are more likely to die due to the inevitably reduced quality of care.