Having a sense of proportion about COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult for everyone. We have lost over 600,000 people, and many others have long-term health consequences from the virus – specifically damage to the lungs. This is why I supported mask mandates and temporary “stay at home” orders that closed businesses and limited gathering sizes.

That said, it is simply not true that COVID-19 is an unprecedented event, and it is irresponsible to say it is. The “Spanish Flu” of 1918 was far worse, killing fifty million worldwide and 675,000 in these United States. Keep in mind that the population then was less than one third of what it is today. The bubonic plague was exponentially worse, wiping out as much as half of the planet’s population in the 1400’s.

We should also be careful when describing the mortality rate of the novel coronavirus. It is not true that everyone who gets COVID-19 either dies or has permanent lung damage. A large percentage of cases are either mild or totally asymptomatic. In fact, that is one of the things that makes this disease so dangerous: You could not even realize you have been infected and then pass it on to someone (or multiple people) who are more vulnerable to it. Even young, healthy people can potentially become seriously ill.

This is also why we need to cool off with these emotionally-charged rants. It may feel good to condemn those who have not been vaccinated as hicks or idiots, but if you actually want them to be vaccinated, insulting and berating them will only harden and intensify that opposition. This should be a public health effort, not another front in the culture war and not a political weapon.

Why is this important? Because we need people to take this seriously. When public health authorities, media personalities or government officials inflate the scope of COVID-19, they cause people to become cynical and not take this virus as seriously as they should. Just the simple facts about how many people have died and who is vulnerable should be more than enough.