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  • Mark Lavie

Numbers don't add up to a 2nd Corona wave

The trouble with numbers...

Israeli headlines scream about an "Outbreak" of corona virus cases "spreading through the school system," "hundreds" of new cases, and the inevitable "second wave."

It could very well happen if people aren't conscientious about wearing masks and maintaining social distance--but we're not there yet. A closer examination of the numbers under those headlines shows why:

Indeed, there are a few hundred new active cases. This follows a decision to reopen schools, and start testing asymptomatic classmates and teachers in schools where an active case was discovered. So--more testing, more cases. That's an easy one.

Now let's look at the schools. This table ran in an Israeli newspaper. It shows the dispersion of new cases in the schools. There's a total of 303, out of two million kids. And look at the top: Jerusalem, 213. So 70 percent of the new cases are in Jerusalem. Here's what's not in the table: At least 130 of the cases came from a single school. There's no explanation yet as to why that happened, but the fact is--half the new cases in Israel over the week before the table was published on Friday came from a single school. Tel Aviv schools had 19 new cases, and all the other cities and towns show single figures.

This is the place to emphasize that we need to learn how to live with Corona. A permanent total lockdown is unfeasible. We need to learn what we can open, and what needs to remain closed, who can resume semi-normal or "new normal" lives and who can't. A leading Israeli educator noted that none of the new cases on that list have proved to be serious, and we need to get used to the idea that there will be a handful of cases, a handful of schools that are closed for a short time, and incorporate that into our reality.

It has been shown that young people are less likely to develop serious effects from Corona than old people. That's not to say that we can sacrifice old people. It means that we can afford to be less stringent about young people. We need answers about what to do concerning teachers who are over 50 or 60. We still need many answers. But here was my reply to a friend who posted a picture of a school being closed down and wrote, in all caps, "I TOLD YOU SO!!!!!!!!"

"Folks, we have to learn how to live with this. It's not going away. It means some trial and error. So far, taken in a larger context, opening the schools isn't an error. There are localized outbreaks among thousands of schools, and they're being dealt with locally. Two of my grandkids are in isolation, so it's not as if I'm writing this from Alaska. Closing the schools means closing down the economy, and we can't do that indefinitely. With each step, we're learning more about the virus and how it acts, and we'll be able to make better decisions. Stiff upper lip, friends...and meantime I'm staying home because I'm old and I can 😀"

Which brings us to us old folks.

The same newspaper carried some statistics about people who have died from the disease. Each death is a tragedy, and up to now Israel has had 295 fatalities. My home state of Indiana, which has 3/4 the population and four times the territory, just crossed the 2,000-fatality "milestone." That's the perspective aspect. Now the figures from Israel's Health ministry: The average age of victims here is 80.7. 57 percent had high blood pressure. 35 percent had heart disease. 37 percent had diabetes.

Clearly, then, many had more than one underlying illness. More importantly, these figures do not (that's "do not") show that the accompanying conditions necessarily contributed to the deaths. An expert quoted in the accompanying article will go only so far as to say that the occurrence of the above conditions was higher among the dead than in a comparable group that did not catch the disease. That's all. So we're still working on it.

And that's the key. We're still working on it. This is a new disease. We are still learning. As more data becomes available, the experts know more and more, and we can get better instructions from them. The fact that they change their instructions from time to time does not mean they were wrong and therefore don't know what they're talking about--it means they can update their conclusions as new knowledge becomes available. That's a good thing, not a bad thing.

Keep in mind the main point. We need to learn how to live with Corona. It is not going away. Neither are we.

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