A mere numbers game

By Reyshimar Arguelles

It has been weeks since the world was put into lockdown. Now that hard-hit countries like Italy, Spain and France have decided to start the gradual yet agonizing journey towards what many have called the “new normal”, people now think that the days of CoViD-19 are numbered. There have been widespread recoveries in these countries while human trials for the development of a vaccine and cure for CoViD-19 have been initiated.

In addition to that, healthcare systems have refined their methods in treating the virus. In the Philippines, for instance, recovered CoViD-19 patients are encouraged to donate convalescent plasma to those who are in critical condition. Although there is still a need for further research, medical experts say that blood transfusions may give a fighting chance to immuno-compromised patients.

The Department of Health now urges recovered patients to donate plasma in a bid to “flatten the curve” and prevent the healthcare system from collapsing. As of this writing, the recovery-to-death ratio has improved, with a total of 1,023 people recovering from the disease versus 558 confirmed CoViD-19-related deaths according to the department’s most recent figures.

We may welcome these numbers as a positive development in the fight against the pandemic, but we may as well be making light of the actual social toll the virus has caused. This is true with any crisis where numbers determine whether you should be hopeful or afraid of the future. And sure enough, people are focusing on data about new cases, recoveries and deaths like they were watching the scoreboard of an NBA game. It doesn’t matter if the opposing team rakes up 90 points so long as we end up winning a shiny trophy with 91.

Have we reached a point where everything has to be diluted into a numbers game? Does it even make sense to base our policy decisions on how many will benefit from them or how many will die from them? The statistics of a crisis gives us a view of the situation as it happens, but it does not exactly put a face on the figures, graphs, and situationers that policymakers will just skim through. Many of our leaders base their decisions on expediency and the assumption that the best of all possible decisions is the one that results in less casualties and in even lesser implications for the future.

Then again, the statistics can help us become aware of the situation and spare no time coming up with life-saving strategies. Treating crisis statistics as a numbers game is one thing, but you can only be so insane and vapid to ignore the writing on the wall and let people die because the whole situation has been overblown.

This would explain why the administration of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro continues to downplay the seriousness of the pandemic. For him, CoViD-19 was nothing more than the flu and the deaths it has caused (and will cause) will not be so significant. He has even gone so far as firing Health Minister Luz Henrique Mandetta, who locked horns with Bolsonaro over the need for self-isolation measures among the country’s 200 million citizens. Now, Brazil has stepped on the gas and brought the rest of Latin America for a nightmare drive.

And of course, we cannot ignore citizens in the United States who insist on lifting lockdown measures because they can’t get a pedicure or a haircut. Then again, these are humans who happen to be misinformed and ignorant about the facts that should play a greater role in their lives as the pandemic persists.

These are trying times indeed and we should not walk down the road towards making light of the pandemic as though it were a soccer match or an infringement on freedom. We have to use the information we have to realize the breadth of the problem, acknowledge the human toll it is causing, and use the numbers in a more rational and scientific way.