More than Just Numbers
As of today, the world COVID-19 death numbers are at 37,582, and no one expects that to be the final total when this is all said and done.
There is a temptation to compare the number of causalities to the causalities of previous world wars or other pandemics. There is a temptation to say how it could have been so much higher if we didn’t intervene in this way or that way.
But I think it would be good for us to remember that the vast majority of those “numbers” were people who were important and precious to someone. Maybe a few were like “Elanor Rigby” from the famous Beatles song… but I think it is more likely that most of them were not.
Each time that number ticks up, that is another family that lost someone precious to them.
It ticks up, and one family has lost a grandmother and a mom, a sister and a friend. It ticks again, and now a community has lost a teacher or principal, whose life impacted years of students, even if they are no longer attending the school.
It ticks again, and now a dad, a brother, a son is gone, mourned by his family. That tick on the death count was a coach, and all of his former and current athletes mourn.
Many of those numbers represent healthcare workers, who don’t get to stay home and stay safe. Instead of wondering if they might be exposed, they know they are, and keep trying to save lives anyways.
In the butterfly affect, there will likely be lives lost needlessly in the future that were ultimately caused by not having the nurses and doctors that were lost to this virus. Who knows how many of these healthcare workers who died would have saved lives in the future if they hadn’t died to COVID-19.
When there is a shooting, and the number of victims is under a hundred, the press does a great job of trying to honor and remember those who died. In tragedies of this scale, it would be impossible to do the same.
Today, as I write, there have been an additional more than 700 deaths today alone in the United States. We don’t know the stories of all of these people, and we can’t. Unless it hits your family, you might be more frustrated by the inconveniences it causes you to stay at home, work from home, missing your sports, your restaurants etc.
But I can guarantee that to the families of those 3,000 plus deaths, it isn’t about that, not anymore. To them, this is real, and a tragedy, just as significant as the shootings and the wars.
It was, at one point, a preventable tragedy.
Just a look at South Korea’s numbers tells us what might have been possible if we, as a nation, had done everything right. Despite having their first case on the same day as the US, their death count is only at 162, and their case numbers are dropping.
We failed that, as a nation, and now it has hit all 50 states, and it is far from being controlled. Every news report, every projection tells us that the numbers will continue to rise, at least for a while, and I am afraid that the death count will become just a number, without the significance attached.
There are still some who deliberately ignore the rules, because it hasn’t affected them personally yet. But it might hit their family next.
Twitter is a great way to feel less distanced from these deaths, because as people share who they have lost, it helps us remember that those numbers are people, and each death is something to be mourned, and spur us to work harder to prevent the next one.
We need, as a world, to take every single tick upward on the death count seriously, because only by being sobered by that number will we be willing to give up so much to keep that number as low as possible now, by staying home, and staying away from others.