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WTVM Editorial 7/29/21: Behind the Numbers

Published: Jul. 29, 2021 at 12:55 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - You may be hearing a lot about the COVID variant called “Delta” and how fast it’s spreading around the country. Some media sources focus on the “big percentages” and “explosions” of people testing positive when reporting on the rising number of COVID cases.

But what’s missing in almost all of those reports is a little perspective.

If we take a step back and take a calm look at the numbers, the story looks far less dire. For instance, the CDC reported 29,000 U.S. COVID cases on a certain day last week. That’s 29,000 cases in the entire country of 350 million people.

Of those 29,000 COVID cases, hospitalized patients number less than 3,000 and the 7 day average number of deaths was 211.

The virus continues to mostly claim the elderly and medically weak. Luckily, 89-percent of people 65 and older have been vaccinated - a tremendous achievement. Those are the citizens who have always needed the most protection from COVID.

The vaccine works for millions of people and medical experts agree it will lessen the symptoms and severity of the virus if you do get it, so that’s more good news.

But one of the most vaccinated states, California, reacted to the Delta variant by re-imposing their mask mandate, even though there are only about 6,000 cases now and less than 30 deaths - this, in a state with a population of 39 million people.

In contrast, in Alabama with far less residents vaccinated, new cases are less than 1,400 with a seven day average of eight deaths.

Alabama’s population is almost 5 million people.

Citing these numbers is not meant in any way to downplay the risks of infection or to discourage vaccination. The risks are real. But when total U.S. case numbers jump from 15,000 to 30,000, you’re much more likely to hear “cases are up 100 percent.”

That’s because a large percentage increase always sounds alarming and for some in the media, being alarming is the point. So, it’s wise to step back, use common sense, some basic math - and a little critical thinking - to put any information that relies on numbers into the proper perspective.

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