Recently a well-known TV personality suggested that reopening schools could be among the first steps towards getting back to normal soon. This is “attractive,” he said, because the fatality rate “is only 2-3 percent.” I find this reasoning baffling, perhaps because I’m able to view it in concrete terms instead of as a vague abstraction: throw in a few numbers and the words “percent” or “per capita” and viewers apparently will assume you are a Very Learned Person who knows more than they do. Very well. I have questions for Dr. Oz:
- Do you understand that “percent” means “out of every one-hundred” and that you are suggesting that rate is an acceptable sacrifice?
- Please stand in a room with 100 children and point out the three you believe are expendable.
- In actual numbers, the United States has something over 28 million children age 5-11. Three percent of that is 840,000. (The total number of minors — victims under 18 — would therefore be about 2.1 million lost to covid-19.) Discuss.
- Please explain how this kind of literal human sacrifice is qualitatively different from tossing a virgin into a volcano for better weather.
Speaking only for myself: the volcano has the better of this argument: one virgin, versus 2 million children. But Dr. Oz believes it’s an acceptable level of loss. And for Donald Trump it’s a small price to pay for a booming stock market. One hopes the children — like the virgin — will appreciate their role in the history of their people.
Leaving the children to their fate, I’d like to address the adults who are clamoring to “reopen” in the name of “liberty!” Which of your friends and relatives will you sacrifice? It doesn’t need to be for the sake of your stock portfolio; whom are you willing to snuff so you can go back to work? As a strictly moral proposition, I suggest that anyone unwilling to say exactly which specific people — including which among his friends and relatives — are expendable in the pursuit of economic gain, has no business making the “reopen now” argument. (And if you are so willing, you have absolutely no moral authority. Get thee behind me, Sociopath.)
These are large numbers of real people, not just “small” percentages. Compare to the seasonal flu which claims about 0.1% — one-tenth of one percent of those who contract it — every year. Dr. Oz calls a mortality rate thirty times that “attractive.” Let’s think of a better word. “Mass infanticide” is perhaps too emotionally freighted, but it works for me.
Call it what you will, I challenge the champions of “Liberty!” and “Freedom!” to provide a rational argument. What we’ve heard so far — whining about wanting to get a haircut — isn’t terribly compelling. If you need a haircut, order a clipper from Amazon and let your son or daughter get to work. Isn’t that small inconvenience worth the lives of two million children?