“1 in 500 is only 0.2%”
when statistics become tragedies
CNN: 1 in every 500 US residents have died of COVID-19
As of today, 5 December 2021, 788,311 Americans have died of COVID. (Johns Hopkins University)
As of today, 19 September 2021, the United States population is 332,976,500. (US Census Bureau)
The calculator app on my phone tells me this is 0.002367467374. 0.2%.
0.2% reads like nothing.
“Oh, that’s a tenth of two percent”, you might think. You’re not wrong.
That’s because our minds read percentages as quantities per hundred.
That’s literally what percent means. From Latin, per centum, “by a hundred”.
Now, to borrow the familiar term currently inundating the headline/subtitle of every other recommended story on my Medium newsfeed, scale.
The US population is over 3.32 million times 100.
Now apply the death rate to a sufficiently large sample size.
That’s how you get to 788,311 (and counting).
That’s why 1/500 is a terrible, unforgivable statistic.
It’s utterly devastating in its absolute magnitude.
788,311 human beings.
How many families? How many lives? How many stories? How many breaths? How many blinks? How many dreams? How many hopes? How many —
From now until the rest of our lives, we could come up with 788,311 different “how many” questions, one for each person. I’ll spare us all the imaginings.
It’s damning as an indelible indictment of inaction and incompetence.
The real tragedy? It could have been 10x or 100x less, in many cases.
The death count continues to rise.
Public health best practices — including, but not limited to, universal masking, social distancing, mandatory quarantines, virtual/remote study and work, travel limitations, public gathering restrictions, and vaccination mandates — have become polarized and politicized, needlessly and senselessly (as has the discourse around them in the public sphere) by short-sighted, dim-witted hacks and quacks, whose inexorable ignorance and childish delusions continue to exacerbate this global crisis soon entering its third year, particularly amidst the rise of multiple novel variants.
The good news? Public health best practices are informed by science.
Despite grim milestones, science still exists. Science still works.
Mask up. Get vaxxed. Take care, stay safe, and be well. I love you.