Wednesday, October 7, 2020

By The Numbers

From Newsweek:

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has now claimed more American lives than the total number of U.S. soldiers killed during historic conflicts in Vietnam, Korean, Iraq, Afghanistan and World War I.

While the aforementioned conflicts killed 155,072 soldiers, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the U.S. coronavirus epidemic has claimed over 205,600 as of October 5, 2020, according to Johns Hopkins University. In fact, the number of U.S. COVID-19 deaths surpassed 155,000 in late July, according to Johns Hopkins.

The VA states that 4,431 American soldiers died in the Iraq invasion from 2003 to 2010, 2,445 American soldiers died in Afghanistan skirmishes from 2001 onward, 58,220 American soldiers died in the Vietnam conflict from 1964 to 1975, 36,574 American soldiers died in the Korean conflict from 1950 to 1953 and 53,402 Americans died in World War I from 1917 to 1918.

Since the end of March, COVID-19 has killed an average of 7,043 Americans each week.

The count is numbing. We don’t think well in cold statistics. It’s just a number.

I work every day with numbers. It helps not to think of what’s behind them to make the spreadsheets work; I’m just counting and matching and ticking and tying things together. But every now and then I need to stop and look and think of what they do, what they represent, and what they mean to others.

So how do we translate that into something meaningful? Do we think about those left behind? The empty houses, the silent rooms, the reminders left behind like clothes and personal items, traces of the life lived and now seen only in two dimensions like photographs and death certificates? The loss felt by wives, husbands, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, and friends. Multiply those by the numbers and see what the real devastation is. And then remember that there is someone behind each one.