Podrán cortar todas las flores, pero no podrán detener la primavera.

You can cut all the flowers, but you cannot keep spring from coming

Pablo Neruda

In my post of April 1, 2020 entitled CORONAVIRUS APRIL FOOL’S DAY,  I justified my germaphobic behavior in the supermarket with statistics:

“As of today, the first of April, according to the New York City Department of Health, there are 45,707 known cases; 9,775 have been hospitalized; 1,374 have died.”

The trouble with statistics is that they can be used to justify practically anything.  Therefore, it is up to Control Savvy People to recognize that behind every number, there is a question.  If you don’t ask questions you are in danger of letting other people control you through what I call “numerical intimidation”.  Questions can even the odds in your favor.

Although I have continued to follow my germaphobic practices on the basis of the old adage, “Better safe than sorry”,  I have spent the month of April watching the numbers that have been faithfully published every day by the New York City Department of Health.

Let’s go back to the numbers from April 1 and ask some questions.

 45,707 known cases  

As of 2018, there were 8,398,748 people living in the five boroughs—Manhattan, Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island.  The words “known cases” mean that there are probably a large number of New Yorkers who have COVID in their bodies and don’t even know it.  That’s a scary thought that would justify germaphobic behavior.  But we haven’t asked any questions yet.  Let’s do that.

  1. What do the words “known cases” mean?  Are they based on tests?  If so, what tests? How reliable are they?  
  2. What do the faces of the 45,707 New Yorkers with COVID look like?  To the medical system, they are cases.  To me they are fellow New Yorkers.  Are they young? Old? Men? Women? Skinny? Fat? Brown? Pink?
  3. What systems do they belong to?  In previous posts I have already pointed out that we humans are made up of many systems that work together to keep us alive, but we are also part of systems that keep large groups of people alive.  Where do these New Yorkers work?  What systems within the huge system called New York City are they a part of?
  4. How sick are these New Yorkers?  Are they sick at all?  Have they been sent home with a fever of 101 and been told that they are not sick enough to be hospitalized?
  5. How do these New Yorkers feel?  Are they worried? Afraid? Lonely? Depressed?  Do they have family and friends to support them?
  6. Am I one of these New Yorkers and just don’t know it?

9775 hospitalized

Obviously, if the hospitals are turning away people on the basis of not being sick enough, then these New Yorkers must be really, really sick.  All the above questions apply plus the ones below.

  1. What is their medical history? 
  2. What medications were they taking on a regular basis, if any?
  3. What procedures are being used to help them survive?
  4. What medications are being used?

And finally… 

6. Will I become one of these New Yorkers?

1,374 Dead

These deaths all occurred in the three weeks between March 11, 2020 and April 1, 2020.  The ever-present question remains…

 Will I become one of these New Yorkers?

As I followed the daily statistics during the month of April, I realized that I didn’t understand what it meant to be a “known case” and the term “hospitalized” could also mean several things… but dead was dead.  I decided to concentrate on the death statistics.

Let’s look at the daily COVID-19 deaths as of April 5, 2020. 

First of all, as you can see by the number in the lower extreme right, the total number of deaths climbed from 1,374 on April 1 to 2472 on April 5.  A simple subtraction problem will give us the number of people who died in five short days.

2472- 1374 = 1098

Wow! That’s enough to strike fear into the most stalwart New Yorker!

The Health Department has been kind enough to give us some additional information by dividing these unfortunate New Yorkers by groups: Age, Sex, and Borough of residence.  I am surprised to see that many more men than women have died.  However, what interests me most are the ages.  When comparing different groups that make up a whole it often helps to convert the numbers to percentages.

Let’s take the group that is 75 and older as an example.

N% / 100% = 1131 / 2472

Translated into words, this says  N (unknown) percent is to 100 percent as 1131 is to 2472.  You cross multiply and divide to find the answer.

2472N = 1131 x  100

N =  113100 / 2472

N = 45.8%

This means almost half the people who died between March 11 (first death) and April 5 were over the age of 75.  

Let’s look at the other percentages.

0 to 17 —  2 —  0.08%

18 to 44 —140 —5.7 %

45 to 64 — 587 — 23.7%

65 to 74 —  612 — 24.8%

75 and over — 1131 —45.8%

I am encouraged to see that COVID is leaving children between the ages of 0 and 17 practically untouched.  Eighteen to forty-four year olds also seem to be very fortunate.  The middle-aged and the “young” seniors seem to be equally at risk.  But the very elderly are being hit harder than all the others combined.

Now I ask myself:  Why are the playgrounds closed?  Was it really necessary to close the schools?  I realize that there are many teachers and administrators who are between the ages of 45 and 64 and they are much more at risk…but the playgrounds?

People over 65 (I am in this group) need to be very careful.  These numbers justify my germaphobic behavior on April 1.

Now let’s look at the most recent statistics.

Fortunately, the Health Department has saved me the trouble of figuring out the percentages.

Unfortunately, there have been a very large number of deaths since March 11, 2020.  In just seven weeks, 13,000 people have died—18,231, if you count those in the  “probable” category.  Let’s not. 

However, the percentages by age group have remained more or less the same.  No worries until you reach 44 years of age.  The elderly are at extreme risk.  Men are much more at risk than women.

If we have learned so much by just looking at the numbers by age, I think we could understand even more if other questions were answered.   Most of the deceased had pre-existing medical conditions.  It would be interesting to know which ones and what medications were being used to treat them.

Numbers can be used to give you control against ignorance and fear, or they can be used to intimidate and manipulate you.  

Who or What controls the COVID-19 numbers?

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