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COLUMNS

Commentary: These aren’t statistics and numbers, they are real people

Steve King
Suburbanite correspondent
The Suburbanite

The anchors on the TV newscast the other night crowed about the fact there had been just 17 deaths in the state due to the coronavirus the previous day.

They said it was “a vast improvement” in the days leading up to that and as such “was cause for optimism.” Then they smiled, if only ever so slightly.

Indeed, everything is relative, and what they said is true.

But what is also true and never seems to get mentioned, at least not enough, is that the 17 isn’t just a number or a statistic. It is so much more than that. It represents people who died, in almost every way horrible, miserable deaths with much suffering as they struggled mightily to get their breath.

They had families and friends and neighbors and life stories. And now they’re gone. Their stories are over and the people who knew them, and loved them, and were part of those stories in ways big and small, must go on without ever again seeing their smiles, hearing their voices or holding their hands.

Sure, some of them, and perhaps even a good portion of those deceased, were older and/or had comprised immunities, so they might not have lived that much longer regardless. At least that’s what science and medicine indicate. But we don’t know that for certain.

And anyway, why should it matter that their odds weren’t good. A life is a life and that person should be allowed to die a natural death, not one due to some virus. That they couldn’t, and didn’t, get that chance is a loss, not just to the people in their circles but to their communities overall.

Also during that aforementioned newscast were stories about people being hurt in car accidents, house fires and as victims of crimes. If any of those incidents, or all of those incidents combined, would have resulted in 17 total deaths, it would have been breaking news, the details of which would have consumed almost all of the newscast. Nobody would have glossed over those deaths or tried to put a positive spin on them in any way, shape or form. And there would have been no smiles from the news anchors, if only ever so slightly.

We have become numb to these coronavirus deaths perhaps because the numbers have been so staggering. We can’t comprehend it. An ESPN college football reporter said in an interview the other day that the number of deaths in the U.S. due to the coronavirus has surpassed the seating capacity of Ohio State University’s Ohio Stadium, which is listed as 104,944.

Think about that for a moment. There are more deceased than seats in The Horseshoe. Look at a photo of the stadium filled up for a Buckeyes home football game – it is a sea of humanity – and then look at those cheering fans as deceased coronavirus victims.

There’s another reason, I think, why the number of coronavirus deaths don’t get their proper due. It’s because we live in a world in which people get blown up 24/7/365 on millions of video games, only to be reborn and suddenly reappear when the gamer merely hits the reset button. We’ve carried that over into real life where those lives of coronavirus victims don’t matter. They’re just numbers, statistics. They aren’t real people.

But they are. They really are.

Or they were.

Has anybody noticed?

And if so, do they care, if only ever so slightly?