I’m not quite sure how to make sense of the Worldometer’s numbers for the US and my reaction to them. As has been in the headlines for over a week now, the number of new cases each day has jumped precipitously from a horrifying average level of about 20k to a staggeringly high rate of about 35k (today alone, 39,038 more people were diagnosed with covid-19). And yes, the higher current detection rates may be somewhat driven by the increases in testing, but that’s a huge jump and the increased testing doesn’t completely account for it.
You should also look at the European CDC’s graph that tallies the number of cases per million of six countries (US, France, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and Italy) – it’s absolutely horrifying; every other country is showing massive downward trends such that they are hovering between 1 (Australia) and 18 (UK) per million while we look to be at about 94 per million (the Worldometer pegs us at about 91 per million). And for the last 10 days our curve looks like a rocket shooting straight up. What the hell are you all thinking? What are we thinking?
I don’t know, but maybe some of the other covid-19 numbers tallied daily by Worldometer might give some clues. I’m thinking of the stats reflecting the number of people who are dying each day and the number who are in serious or critical condition. It’s these numbers that sometimes have me teetering on the edge of wanting to believe you that things aren’t that bad. You see, despite the wildly increasing case numbers, the daily deaths have gone down substantially and the number of people in serious or critical condition has held steady.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s obviously not ok that we pretty continuously have 16.5k people who are in serious or critical condition because of covid-19 and around 1,000 people dying from it every day – these are still awful rates and we know that communities of color are being disproportionately impacted. But I have to confess that when these numbers are either holding steady or going down (some), it’s hard for me to hold on to the alarm and if it’s hard for me, then it’s no wonder that people who lean into your messaging are being snookered into thinking we don’t need to restrict our activities or wear masks.
But we do. We really do. All of us.
Even if the virus is now infecting greater numbers of younger, baseline healthier people who aren’t as likely to need to be hospitalized or to die as was true for the initial bolus of older people, it’s just a matter of time before many of the more vulnerable people who’ve been sheltering in place out of caution end up getting it anyway. And when that starts happening, the numbers of us needing to be hospitalized and the numbers of us dying are probably going to look like the case curves – shooting nearly straight up.
I saw the European CDC graph on Twitter (Laura forwarded it to me) and the person who posted it, Alex Halpern, titled his Tweet: “It didn’t have to be like this.” He’s so right – it really didn’t have to be like this. If we had even nominally reasonable leadership and a nominally reasonable sense of community in this country, it wouldn’t be like this. Actually, a lot of things wouldn’t be the way they are, ranging from increasing police brutality to gun violence to climate change. We’re showing the world and ourselves that our system, which is predicated on oppression and exclusion, is very, very broken. We’re proving that it needs to be interrogated, wholly reimagined, and completely remade, or really, not only will the promise of America never be realized, but our children and their children will be doomed.
On that cheery note….
May we be safe from our self-absorbed selves.
May we be willing to step back from our selfish ways.
May we see that everyone’s strength and health are completely intertwined.
May we accept that what we’ve got going isn’t working, that it isn’t sustainable.