Sadly, many on the right have decided that the coronavirus crisis is exaggerated at best or a hoax at worst.
I understand where this perspective comes from –– it’s hard to comprehend things we haven’t personally seen. And if we don’t know someone who has died or been seriously ill or been in an ICU, then it might look as if the world has gone mad.
We hear the daily numbers: the United States has had 5,916,401 documented cases of Covid-19 and 181,363 coronavirus related deaths at the time of this writing.
But it’s hard to make that number feel real. And then we hear stories that come from either Facebook trolls or well-meaning friends about how they heard those death numbers are inflated, that a friend of a friend heard about someone who died in a motorcycle accident and had his death counted as a Covid death.
Our brains love exceptions –– we latch on to them and dwell on them and give them outsized importance in our thinking, especially since that exception was passed on to us from a person we know and trust.
So let’s engage in some best case scenario speculation: if as many as 10% of reported deaths were actually deaths from motorcycle crashes, dog attacks, falls down stairwells, or overzealous hospital administrators double counting corpses trying to get more government dollars, that still leaves 163,227 deaths. Let’s further assume that the coronavirus has already widely spread and that 90% of the cases were so mild people didn’t bother to get tested. That puts the U.S. mortality rate at .27%, and if we reach herd immunity once 70% of the population has had this disease, that means that we each have a 99.82% chance of not dying from this.
Because 99.82% doesn’t sound that dangerous, we start demanding that schools reopen, we don’t bother social distancing when we gather with others, and we get angry that they make us wear a mask when all we want to do is go in to the local mini-mart and get a family size bag of Ruffles and a gigantic tub of Top the Tater.
But look at the numbers a different way –– not as the safe percentage for you personally, but what that percentage implies for us as a country. We’ll end up with an American death toll of 625,590.
Those preventable 625,590 deaths will include teachers and students and nurses and doctors and grandparents and assembly line workers and delivery drivers and cooks and waiters and so many others.
Unless you have more than 500 friends, the odds are that you won’t personally know anyone who dies from this. But others will. Understanding and accounting for the experience of others is called empathy.
Of the two candidates running for President, only one gets this, only one has demonstrated empathy, and only one has acknowledged the magnitude and seriousness of this crisis.
And that is why I’ll be casting my vote this fall for Joe Biden.