“Without context, a piece of information is just a dot. It floats in your brain with a lot of other dots and doesn’t mean a damn thing. Knowledge is information in context… connecting the dots.” Michael Ventura
We are presented with COVID-19 information dots daily. Unfortunately, cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are presented without context. Connecting these dots to make health, education, and economic decisions is critically important. For example, Anne Arundel County’s 8,037 Covid-19 cases might seem like a lot. Unless you know the population of Anne Arundel county is 579,234, and COVID-19 cases barely exceed 1% of our population. During July, there were never more than 50 county COVID-19 patients hospitalized at any one time. Among them, ICU patients never exceeded 17. As of August 25, only 31 Covid-19 patients are hospitalized, with 7 in the ICU.
The loss of 222 Anne Arundel countians to COVID-19 is a devastating loss and saddens us all. All lives are precious. Yet we must also look at these deaths in context, to ensure our response to this disease is appropriate and pragmatic. In context, 98.3% of our 8,037 COVID-19 cases recovered. The vast majority were never even hospitalized.
The ages of Anne Arundel’s 222 COVID-19 decedents are: under age 20, none, between twenty to twenty- nine,(2); between thirty to thirty-nine, (2); between forty to forty-nine, (6); between fifty to fifty-nine, (13); between sixty to sixty-nine, (27); between seventy to seventy-nine, (56); between eighty to eighty-nine, (67); and over age ninety, (49).
In a county of 579,234 people, no children, and 23 adults under age sixty, have died of COVID-19. The remaining 199 COVID-19 deaths were all over sixty. In Anne Arundel, 81% of total COVID-19 cases were under sixty, but 90% of deaths were over sixty.
In Maryland, 473 people under age sixty, less than a tenth of a per cent of our 6,000,000 population, have died of COVID-19. There are 3,086 COVID-19 deaths over sixty, with 2,091 (68%) in assisted living facilities.
In the United States (population 330 million), we’ve had 180,609 COVID-19 deaths. People 65 and over account for only 16% of our population, but 80% of our COVID-19 deaths.
This is context. One wonders why it goes unreported in the media, where COVID-19 cases and deaths are reported daily, but not the age(s) or pre-existing conditions of decedent(s); why the county web site discourages context by reporting decedent ages only as percentages of total deaths, rather than using actual numbers like the state; why the county doesn’t provide a death timeline like the state; and why neither reports pre-existing conditions among the dead, especially those under age sixty, or provides a death timeline for assisted living facilities.
With context, one understands why the American Pediatric Society has said that it is not only safe, but critically important to reopen our classrooms; why religious and private school classrooms are re-opening; and why classrooms have already safely re-opened in Europe.
With context, one can see County Executive Steuart Pittman’s decision to keep public school classrooms closed, as well as his interference with private and religious classrooms reopening, are based more on political science than medical science.
The media and most politicians focus on “floating dots” of information that support their views and political agendas. Yet when you connect all the dots, it’s clear that COVID-19 is as safely manageable for healthy people under sixty as other health risks. Our COVID-19 focus should be protecting the elderly, especially in assisted living facilities, and those with pre-existing conditions, instead of indiscriminately treating everyone as equally at risk. They are not. That’s the balanced, safe, and reasonable course suggested by looking at COVID-19 information in context…. and connecting the dots.
Herb McMillan, an airline captain, served a term on the Annapolis City Council and three terms in the Maryland House of Delegates. He may be reached at [email protected]Data current as of August 25,2020.