Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Guest Post: One Percent is Not a Solution

My friend Sheila emailed this to me, asking if I would put it on my blog. Please share it. 

One Percent is Not a Solution
Sheila Kelly

I checked the current population of the US this morning, which the internet says is 327,700,000. Three percent (the mostly frequently touted mortality rate of Covid-19) of that is 9,831,000, but it's possible that it's as low as 1%, which would be 3,277,000. I think it's safe to say that if this highly infectious virus spreads unchecked, somewhere between three and ten million people in this country will die.

About three million people die every year in the US anyway, so the best-case scenario is that we'll double the average annual death rate -- if nothing else factors in. If the virus doesn't mutate. If our healthcare system is not overwhelmed by the number of cases and more people die because they couldn't get care. If the people who initially survive the virus don't relapse or experience complications that shorten their lives. In other words, if we're very, very insanely lucky, only three million will die.

Who are these three million? Some of your elected officials will have you believe they're the elderly, as we're the most vulnerable. I suppose we've had a chance to live longer than most, so it seems justifiable that we can be sacrificed. But then, we'll also be murdering people with pre-existing conditions or suppressed immune systems (and, I assure you, not all of them are old people.) A good portion of the dead will be neither old nor vulnerable; that's just the way this plague works. So, let's say three million random people can die for the greater good.

If someone rounded up three million citizens in this country and executed them, we would call it a holocaust. Even if they were old, or not as healthy as others. I can think of no cause that would make our government do that.

Or I didn't, until I woke up this morning.

Here's an alternative plan: let's just kill everyone who is infected right now. At this point that would cost only, what, a hundred thousand lives? Peanuts compared to three million, really. We don't really need that senator, or those congressmen, or those celebrities who are infected, right? By summer the US would be virus-free, and the economy back on track. It's just as heartless, yes, but the numbers are better. And that seems to be the only thing that matters to the government right now. The numbers.

Just one problem with both plans: We are not numbers. We are human beings. We are all important.

"Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world." -- Jerusalem Talmud, Sanhedrin 4:1 (22a)

My wish today is that we don't kill anyone on purpose. That we put the value of all lives above the numbers. That we do what we must to save as many as we can. That is the only decent solution.

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