There are statistics.

The problem with that is, during recent events, we’ve all been living by the numbers. And the rub with that is, for a while now, it’s been looking like some of those numbers have been not only erroneous, but egregiously so.

How a person (or government official) interprets “the numbers” is, of course, subject to the observer’s fears, desires and — in some cases — ethical foundations. It doesn’t help at all that in a dynamic and novel situation, the numbers are always going to be a rapidly moving target. As you might expect, that complicates things a bit. For the third time in as many months, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has sheepishly and quietly admitted to numerical and statistical maneuvering.

Thus, in a rather bizarre patchwork of a response curve, bars and restaurants are still taking it on the chin and professional sports players are still prancing in front of cardboard cutouts — except those who have decided to punish the fans by sitting out games because of social issues. (Has anyone ever explained to these “athletes” that they are in the entertainment business, and if they aren’t entertaining, they’re out of business?) We still have to attempt to talk to loved ones through masks and plastic barriers, but kids are back in school happily swapping viruses and bacteria — just like normal. Shoulder-to-shoulder protesting and celebrity parties are tolerated, even encouraged, but failing to wear your mask into a retail store is damn near grounds for a public caning.

Yeah. I’ll let you try to apply some sort of rhyme and reason to all that yourself. I gave up on it a while back.

What I can say with a modicum of surety is when it comes to this sort of stuff, objectivity can be mighty hard to come by, and coincidence, causality, correlation and connectivity can, and do, get hopelessly confused.

Based on a hodge-podge collection of random and often conflicting facts, I’ve developed a few sketchy opinions about it all. But it seemed to me it might be a good idea to talk to someone a bit more in the know and a bit less susceptible to misdirection and confusion. In short, I asked my doctor.

I’ll leave his name out of it, but the guy has always been straight with me and always struck me as both unflappable and indefatigable. When it comes to Covid-19, it would be hard to get a more street-level view — he also works a Covid unit in another hospital and town. That also probably has a lot to do with why he looked a little tired first thing in the morning.

He indicated a spectrum across the width of his desktop with both hands, and over on the right hand side, he indicated an inch and a half wide section with his fingers.

“Once you take the politics out of it, if this is the spectrum of patients we see, the vast majority fit here,” he said, indicating everything except that small finger defined piece. “These patients recover rapidly, and most may not even know they ever had Covid-19. Their symptoms are mild and in a week or so, they recover. It’s not a whole lot worse than a normal cold or flu. But these over here are different. These are the ones who get hospitalized. They generally have existing comorbidities, and they’re in real trouble.”

“We’ve tried a lot of things with these patients, but most of them just aren’t working. (In medicine) We’re impatient. We like to see results pretty quickly, especially in these severe cases, but in these patients, we’re just not seeing it.”

I don’t think I was supposed to see the frustration, loss and sadness in his eyes when he said, “It’s like these folks are just doing their level best to die, no matter what we do.”

It may not have been shot full of varying numbers and completely micrometer-accurate statistically, but it sure as the devil struck me as being a pretty good nutshell assessment of why we need to stay cautious no matter what the numbers say. The doctors are doing their level best — but so is the virus.

From the Pragmatism Booth here at The Paper Radio, it’s easy to get lazy, but in the long run, it’s better to be careful than lucky.

Dan Beard is a 13-year Paris import who dabbles in Linux and photography. He has a 30-year history of writing content and columns for newspapers and magazines. His columns are published every Thursday.

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(1) comment

Judith Malone

Whatever the infection numbers or the ratios or averages, you cannot lie or misrepresent the body bags and caskets. Like an inept murderer, where are you going to hide the bodies or silence grieving families. If it aint you, what do you care? Cold. Really cold. ,

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