On March 23, 2020, I recorded the following numbers on my blog:
341,500 identified with Covid19 worldwide; 15,187 have died. 33,018 identified in the U.S., and 428 have died.
Today, Sunday, October 11, here are the numbers:
Worldwide: Over 37.2 million cases: over 1 million deaths.
US: Over 7.7 million cases; Over 214,000 deaths.
I know we don’t have a way to process these numbers—to understand the significance of it all. I don’t know how to make sense of one death, let alone numbers at this scale.
There was an interactive graphic on the Washington Post that let me try to connect, for a moment, with the scale of grief:
Currently my own county has become a hotspot, and I keep reviewing in my mind how to be safer, after months of trying to be safe. How to help my children make sense of being careful even if there are people around us who aren’t.
One of the challenges, of course, is that the threat of Covid19 is not simply death, though there have been far too many. It is one of risk. Every case contracted carries the risk of more. Just look at where we were in March versus now. Every time Covid19 spreads, it doesn’t mean the person who got it will die. That person may not even experience symptoms. But they might spread it to someone who will. And these numbers don’t tell us how many people will deal with long term consequences of an illness that can harm organ function, even brain function, in ways we are not yet prepared to measure.
I stare into this landscape of grief, not just for the loss of lives but in some cases, for the loss of empathy, the numbness and indifference that some people embrace as an armor against it. I know that we still should avoid doing anything that isn’t 100% necessary. We should still embrace social connections but physically distant—ideally around 12 feet apart, outside, masks on. Or online. We can complain about life on screens but accept that this might keep us safer than the alternative.
I will keep doing what I can to be safe, and I will keep hoping that others will find their way to do so, too. It seems as if too many people prefer to fight over problems, rather than fix them. And this time, the solution is to take care of one another and to be safe for one another. How odd, too, to think that we may be saved not by some miracle vaccine or expensive treatment, but something as cheap and simple as wearing a mask.