PUSHING PANIC: What We All Need To Remember About The COVID Death Toll Tallies

Written by Wes Walker on April 8, 2020

Context is everything… without it, even the data we DO have can cause more harm than good.

For example, what does this death toll tell us, really?

Suppose we had someone in their 80s with stage pancreatic cancer, for example. And let’s say they were brought to some sort of a retirement home to receive advanced medical care as that dear soul draw near to an inevitable end.

Suppose that patient had been given mere weeks to live, but in the course of staying in the retirement home, contracted Chinese Coronavirus.

Would you say that the coronavirus killed the patient? Or that he or she was at death’s door anyway, and happened to die with a coronavirus infection?

How we treat these numbers matter because they can radically impact how we interpret the numbers flashing across our screen on the evening news.

What has now been confirmed is that all deaths of a person infected with this illness — regardless of the actual CAUSE of death — will be treated as a coronavirus casualty.

Of course, that means that those numbers on our screen will suddenly have more context. If they seem inflated, and if they seem to disproportionately impact people with serious underlying conditions, now we know why.

Some folks can take a licking and keep on ticking. Others are in danger of toppling with just the slightest push.

It tells us that the scary numbers on our screen are — at best — unhelpful, and at worst, misleading.

It’s great news for the folks selling fear porn. It gets them clicks. But for those of us who want to be informed citizens, we are no closer to the answers we need.

How dangerous is this disease… really?

How soon can we get back to normalcy… really?

How panicked should we be … really?

All we know for sure is that these numbers — despite the staggering difference between where we stand in contrast to the doomsday-scenario predictions of bodies being stacked up like cordwood and casualties in the ‘world war’ categories… we have come in much lower than predicted.

And even the ‘real’ numbers of WuFlu casualties we’ve experienced so far do not accurately reflect any distinction between those who died OF coronavirus, and those who just happened to die WHILE INFECTED WITH the virus, regardless of the true cause of death.

Strictly speaking, supposing someone drowned in a backyard pool… but was later found to be an asymptomatic carrier of Coronavirus, that would be one more stat in the scary headlines.

If we’re looking at inflated numbers… how is that not contributing to unnecessary panic?

Also, how are we to properly assess the risks that will guide our decision-making in when and how to make that shift in returning to ordinary life?

This bad news is great news for the merchants of fear porn.

But it doesn’t do much to help the rest of us move forward.