Thursday, May 14, 2020

Not numbers, but faces

OK, I am going to do some axe-grinding. 

I sense that our political leaders and even the government officials forecasting the numbers of COVID-19 infections and deaths are forgetting a very important aspect of the statistics: each one of the numbers represents a person. That person is likely part of a family. That person is a son, daughter, brother, sister, possibly a father or mother, or a grandfather, or grandmother, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, and friend.

Each one of the numbers has a face. A community, a social group, a history. 

And the numbers being thrown about are beginning to numb the senses. 

When they talk of flattening the curve, they are talking about people! Reducing the number of people infected so reduce the number of people who will die. 

As of this morning from the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Map:

Globally, over 4 million people have been infected and over 297 thousand people have died. 

In the United States, 1,390,764 people have been confirmed infected and 84,136 people with faces and families have died.

It grieves me that so many people are being treated as just another number.

U.S. Unemployment Percentage May 2019-April 2020
From Trending Economics
But the mind-numbing statistics do not stop there. 

The U.S. unemployment rate has skyrocketed to 14.7 percent, as of last week, equating to 36.5 million lost jobs (from NBC this morning). There is a face and possibly a family behind every one of those 36.5 million lost jobs--it is not just a job--the numbers represent a person who had the job.

And here is the even more sobering part--and this is just me doing the math, but if you multiply the 36.5 million by 3 (the average family size in the U.S.), getting 109.5 million people, I think you begin to approximate the number of people who are directly affected by being jobless--and taking the estimated size of the U.S. population at 328 million--you find that about 33 percent, or one person in every three people, are directly affected by being out of work in America--today.

I am trying to remember, when I hear the numbers thrown about in a cavalier manner by our leaders and the news media, that behind each number is a face. 

So when the expected death toll from COVID-19 was doubled from 70 thousand to 147 thousand (by August 2020)--remember that we are talking about 147,000 fellow Americans, friends, neighbors, and family. I have to believe that the number of lost lives and lost jobs could have been reduced had the U.S. not acted like a third world country when confronted with the signs that coronavirus was coming to a city near us. 

They are not numbers--every one of them is a face with a history and a story to tell. We need to stop thinking of the statistics as detached numbers and think of them as faces.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Updated at 9:05 AM EDT May 14, 2020 with new unemployment numbers

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