A FaceBook friend (are we really friends?) recently posted this meme. He is a conservative, I’d dare even say he is a rabid Trump supporter. That is a claim he would deny (I do not see any evidence of that denial) much in the same way he would say that I am mostly motivated by my opposition to Trump even though I know I am not motivated that way.
What is this a percentage of? My suspicion is that the author has taken the total deaths of the disease and divided it by the total population. But this is inaccurate because the total keeps rising whereas these numbers are static. Upon the writing of this response about 86,000 people have died in the US. But this percentage applied to a 300,000,000 population would be a 51,000 body count. The meme should label the calculation and also provide a date for the calculation. This meme also treats a person that was never infected as a survivor of the disease. That’s not accurate.
Another problem with the way conservatives treat this disease is very dehumanizing, which is reflected in this meme. They act as though the disease either kills or doesn’t kill. There is no acknowledgement of the lingering effects of the disease on the survivors. Those lingering effects have significant costs. This omission is not necessarily intentional, but regardless of intent it is pernicious. It minimizes costs and sufferings. It also allows the ‘unneeded deaths’ to go uncounted against the disease. This is an important omission because the original reason for flattening the curve was not to avoid infection but rather to slow the rate of infection so the hospitals are not crushed allowing other public health interventions. But the conservative’s downplaying of other costs means those other avoidable deaths do not become included in the pandemic’s accounting.
The response I finally settle on, however, uses the ambiguity in its operationalization. Instead of arguing with ,how he would like for it to be deployed I will instead subvert his silence. That’s a great argument for social distancing! Imagine how low the survivability rate would be without any mitigation efforts.