The costs of our fears

Let’s commit to a quick thought experiment.

How many of your friends, family, or even loose acquaintances have unfortunately been identified as infected by COVID-19?  Remember that number, and please accept my condolences if someone you know or love has been harmed by this virus. 

Now, how many of your friends, family, and loose acquaintances have unfortunately been terminated, furloughed, or have otherwise become unemployed because of COVID-19?

I already have a very good idea about which number was bigger than the other number, and a good idea about the extent. 

Here’s how I know.

In the wake of the response to the coronavirus pandemic, there are now over 16 million Americans who “have been put out of work in just three weeks,” according to the New York Times.  As of this writing, there are nearly 503,000 cases where Americans tested positive for COVID-19.  As the numbers go, there is a more than three-thousand percent greater chance that you know someone who has lost his or her job than it is that you know someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Let’s break these numbers down further. 

Roughly, for every person identified as having been infected by COVID-19, there are 32 Americans who lost a job.          


Now, obviously, not everyone who has COVID-19 is identified (as many as 50 percent of those infected are asymptomatic altogether), and not everyone identified as infected with COVID-19 dies from the infection.  Regrettably, there are almost 19,000 Americans who are reported to have died as a result of COVID-19 infection. 

Now, let’s consider this.  Let’s imagine that we treated past flu seasons with a similar amount of fear and hysteria, and let’s consider the now-prominent projection of coronavirus deaths, at 60,000.  In the 2017-18 flu season, it’s estimated by the CDC that there were 45,000,000 infections, and that 61,000 Americans died from it.  Using these numbers, and the correlation of the job losses we’ve seen in our response to the coronavirus pandemic, this would have meant over 51 million job losses among the American people.  For reference, that was nearly 31 percent of the working population in 2018, which was estimated at 166 million.

All violations of civil liberties in your day-to-day life aside, is that what you signed up for?

The last few weeks have been like watching a train wreck in slow motion.  And, indeed, this economy was generally the economic equivalent of a powerful freight train, until this health crisis landed on our doorstep.  We were assured, however, that the goal was not to destroy the economy, but to pause things for a moment.

Do you remember why things had to pause?  Sure, you do.  It was to “flatten the curve."  It was never to ensure that “people don’t get sick.”  It was always understood that the number of people who would get sick, in the end, would be unchanged by “social distancing.”  The entire point was to avoid overwhelming the health care infrastructure, allowing for a more steady, manageable flow of the sick entering and exiting health facilities.

In case you haven’t noticed, these goalposts were moved somehow, and the idea of “flattening the curve” became “if you go outside, or talk to anyone too closely, or advocate anyone else talking to anyone within a range of six-to-ten feet, you want people to die!”  It’s not about “flattening the curve” any more, but about “not making other people sick.” 

Of course, those who are fearful about getting sick still have every right to stay at home.  But as the predictions about death tolls have fallen by more than an order of magnitude since the predictions began, and the medical readiness of our health care infrastructure has grown substantially, the impositions on your life have become more and more unbearable as the weeks have passed. 

None of this makes any sense.

To end how we began, how many people do you know who have lost their job in these past weeks?  I know no fewer than 10, many of whom have never been unemployed in all of their working lives.  Some I know are starting their working careers, and others are in their waning working years.  Are we to believe that the same government which deprived them of their opportunity to earn a living will take care of them with manna from Washington, paid for by their fellow countrymen, their children, and their children’s children?

This isn’t America.  For the love of God, let’s end this insanity, and get back to work.

Photo illustration by Monica Showalter with use of Pixabay public domain images