Human Lives Are Not Percentages
This is when many now realize that learning algebra and other math formulas was important back in school.
Because of Covid19, and regardless of which side of the concern you are on, both want to rely on numbers. One side relies on a percentage, the other, actual numbers. Is it really a big deal? Or is it more “you say ‘potayto’ and I say ‘potahto’?”
This morning I watched our local community channel as the county commissioners were discussing business to “re-opening” our area, of course, once approved by the governor.
For me, I do not pay much attention to percentages unless, UNLESS there is substantial input, a.k.a data, to have a reliable result. Unfortunately, during this crisis, both sides want to emphasize their case, but only one is able to provide the substantial proof.
Actual numbers provided by the CDC, WHO, Johns Hopkins, etc. are reliable. They are not identical, but close in range. These numbers are fact. They are documented.
Percentages at this time, are not fact. Because facts are still being gathered. Here is my case in point.
When the county commissioner meeting got to the public commentary, this is when things got scary. It is hard enough listening to skewed “personal agendas” of politicians, claiming to have professional knowledge, but then you have the local population, claiming to have more. Unfortunately, I could not grab my pen quick enough, or my phone to record her portion of her commentary, but this was the gist of her comments.
Our county has roughly 300,000 people, of course not including snowbirds. She claimed that our county only had a percentage of .2% when it came to cases of Covid19. That means something like roughly 500 cases for our county, which sounds about right to my memory. That sounds fantastic! Not even a quarter of a percent. But the speaker did not qualify her math. You see, factually, our area had only tested roughly 5000 cases, or in her terms, 1.75% of our county had been tested. How can you possibly take a stat like that seriously, as opposed to an actual death count of 16 people in our county?
Just as a reminder…
Using her logic, only 1.5% of our country’s population (over 330 million) have been tested, but the actual number of human lives recorded is well over a million now. The current death rate based only on those tested and confirmed is 5.7%, over 57,000 human lives. Let’s not forget the important number, the recovery number. So out of the million cases, just under 200,000 cases have been closed. So, out of those cases, you cannot include the 800,000 unresolved because that is not “recovered” or “deceased,” approximately 140,000 have recovered, or 71%. I assume for this example is when people would want to use the actual human number because it looks bigger and better than the average “C”grade in school of 71%. Of course, the flip side of this number… an actual death rate of closed cases of 29%, or 57,000 human lives dead.
Okay, give these people a break, they are just looking for unicorns and rainbows to make Covid19 go away. Alright, enough with the scary numbers for death. If we take the death percentage of total cases, it drops the death rate to 5.7%. Aw shit, that is still 57,000 dead. There is just no getting around that actual number.
Why am I grinding so hard about percentages? It actually started long before Covid19. In 1988, when I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, I was told the cure rate was 86%, very good by cancer survival stats. That was based on lots and lots of data.
But, there was a chemotherapy drug that I was given, that had a 5% chance of causing heart damage. Combined with radiation damage, I made it into that 5% group. Fortunately, the majority of my heart issues have been repairable.
Not so for one of my fellow survivors, and one of my youngest survivors. He also fell into that 5% category. By the time they found out however, it was too late. The damage was irreparable.
I am prone to bend the ears of my doctors who deal with the late side effects that I must deal with, and in spite of having the technology available, that could have reduced the chances of this survivor losing his life, unlike thirty years prior for me, this technology was not used. He died.
I asked “why would he not have been given the simple ultrasound that would have caught the damage before it had gotten too bad?” Now, I love my doctors, and they are very empathetic with their patients, and I was not asking him as a patient, but as an advocate. The answer? “It is not cost effective to run that test on every Hodgkin’s patient.” A price of an echo can range starting from $200 on up. Not cost effective? There are approximately 9000 new cases each year, meaning if this medicine was used to treat all 9000, which it wouldn’t be anyway because of different concerns, costs to use this technology as a preventative tool would be under a half million dollars easily. What it actually cost to save this survivor’s life, which it failed to do? Close to $2,000,000. Again, explain to me the phrase “not cost effective.”
It would have been better just to say, “it is not a high enough percentage to be concerned about.” It still happens though, no matter how low the percentage is. He still died. He was one of those 5% that had that extreme side effect. He had a family. He had a bright future ahead after having gotten to remission.
And that is why I cannot accept attempts by anyone to throw percentage numbers at me when they do not even include a majority of data to come to that estimation. But most certainly I cannot accept percentages when they take away the recognition of a human life lost. And by saying only .2% of a local population is no reason to be concerned, you dismiss the 57,000 lives and the families left behind.
It is time for everyone to start taking this virus seriously.