Over the past couple of months I’ve asked a quiet a few friends around the world a simple question.
“In most western countries (Eg. USA, Canada) among people who died of covid, what percent were below 50 years old?”
Worded differently, how many “non near-retirement” age people are among the “officially reported covid-dead” according to the government agencies of those listed countries?
The answers I got back? 40%, 20%, and only one person said 10%.
The real answer (as of June 24th 2021). is 2% (Canada), 4% (USA). Most people were off by 10x. Even I thought it was at least 10% before I dove into the data.
Go back to the question, notice that I define my question very specifically there’s no opinions it’s a very specific question with a very specific answer. I’m not asking you to believe my data set or argue about if it’s “because of covid” or just “with covid” whatever, I’m asking a simple question.
What is the reported “official” numbers by age, why do I ask that question? To show the gap between people’s perception and reality even on that tiny aspect. No conspiracy theories needed.
I’ve been digitally silent for most of the past 12 months cause I felt that most people lost grasp of reality and most conversations on covid felt like a waste of time.
There’s one huge reason that quiet a lot of it boils down to. Risk.
Let’s go back to the one topic everyone is tired off for one sec, Covid.
Recently between January and May 2021 my girlfriend and I did a 13,000km road trip over 19 weeks across all of Argentina.
To put that into perspective, that’s the distance between London and South Africa.
We stayed in nearly 100 Airbnbs and hotels, went and saw sea elephants, seals, dolphins, volcanos, hiked some of the best trails and drank
some a lot of the best wine in the world. (FYI Side note: followed all the covid rules and we were still negative for antibodies at the end😉)
I shared it to Facebook as my yearly “update to show that I’m alive” and I got too many replies from people along the lines of “stay safe”, “take care” that yes contained care but at the same time illustrated the fear that everyone is carrying with them from the past year.
Maybe it’s an assumption on my part, but I don’t think people said “stay safe” cause I drove a car 13,000km. I think they said is because of covid. Which of those two things are riskier?
Covid the disease is like the bogeyman to most people. Narratives keep changing, rules keep flip flopping, what can you even believe in?
The main reason is that most people haven’t had the opportunity to process the past year and a half, because there always something new happening.
The gap between perception and reality gets wider and wider as I illustrated above and in many cases it’s driving them crazy cause they don’t know what to think and worse how their “loved ones” can think something so opposite to them.
I’m not here to tell you what to think. You have enough people trying to do that.
But over the past few weeks as I talked to many of my old friends, I just shared “how I think” and that has helped them find solace so here goes. Maybe you find some part of it useful.
How do I look at covid, vaccines and life in 2021 from a risk perspective?
Part 1: Individually
Covid is a complicated disease that people try to put in a box “plague” vs “flu”.
But for the most part, covid is very dangerous for some people and nearly harmless for others.
It’s literally a plague for someone above the age of 50 and who has a lot of other comorbidities.
For someone who’s below the age of 40 with no comorbidities, it’s just a little bit more harmful than the flu. (The flu kills people too, it’s not harmless and I’m not saying it is.)
So while it’s obvious that people in the risk group should avoid it like the plague (haha! Sorry), it doesn’t mean it’s harmless for people outside it.
Think of it like radiation, even though a tiny bit of radiation wouldn’t kill you, you still want to avoid it right? Right.
But if you believe in avoiding 100% of radiation you will have to move to the mountains and have no cellular connection which mean you shouldn’t be able to read this article…
So trying to avoid it 100%, is like living life trying to guarantee there’s no radiation around you. You can, but at what cost?
On the topic of comorbidities, being fat (yes, I don’t care about your political correctness) makes you at a higher risk to die irrespective of age.
Yet in many parts of the world, over the past year McDonald’s and other fast food services has been open while parks have been closed (when covid *almost* doesn’t spread outdoors), so if you believe that almost all “rules” are anything other than scared politicians half hazardous doing something to try and get elected the next time around you’re out of your mind.
But tbh is anyone that outsources their health, food advice, finances, education and morals to the state worth paying attention to for advice?
Part 2: Society
So if you’re young and healthy your risks didn’t go up by much and you can live life like 2019 right?
This is where you need to stop just looking at yourself and look at the bigger picture of society. When covid spreads without control, while you may not die because of covid, your risks of death are higher because of the strain on the medical system.
Car accidents get a lot riskier when your hospital is out of oxygen and beds are full. (This explains a lot of the situation in India, Brazil ofc along with the new variations and other actions by governments).
Balaji described it well as a “tax on everything in the meat space”.
So a society where covid is spreading like wildfire is a more risky society for everything non covid related even for the people who covid wouldn’t normally harm in isolation.
Part 3: Vaccine
It’s always so insane to notice how tribal humans are. How we test each other with respect to the in-group and the out group and ostracized people who don’t agree with us.
Recently I heard someone say “Everything is political” and I couldn’t disagree more. I believe many people “look” at the world that way, but that it’s not really “how the world is”.
Vaccine are a very good example of this.
If you’re in a highly risk group and covid is “literally the plague” for you, then “getting a vaccine”>”risks of vaccine” almost 100% of the time.
BUT if you’re not, it’s actually more complicated.
For me personally, I’m not at risk for covid at all, so “risks of vaccine” > “benefits of getting a vaccine” as an individual.
But I’m not just an “individual” right?
As I shared above as long as there is a pandemic, covid increases my risks of dying from a car accident. So even from a completely self interested perspective, if “getting a vaccine”= stopping the spread of covid then getting a vaccine might reduce the overall risks to my own life.
From a less self interested perspective, there’s an unbalance of harm in the fact of me giving covid to someone can kill them, but someone giving me covid won’t kill me. This unbalance showed up especially in the anger of people towards kids having parties early during the pandemic.
So if I get a vaccine, I can also help other people as it’s takes that unbalance of harm away.
BUT, if everyone who I can harm (in the risk group) are vaccinated I don’t need to get vaccinated right?
Well, yes and no, partly yes, if enough other people get the vaccine you don’t have to.
BUT, no cause if covid continues to spread thanks to people like me not getting vaccinated it can mutate into versions that can reinfect people who’ve already got vaccinated bringing us all back to square one.
It’s also not just about “risks”, most people will also take into account the upsides of being able to go out/travel/see their family who’re in the risk group etc. This also is very location dependent based on rules.
See my point yet? It’s fucking complicated and they’re no simple answers. Notice how many times I used the word “But”.
Either camps of “vaccine are obvious FOR EVERYONE (and you’re a murderer/nazi for not taking one)”, “Don’t take an experimental vaccine for a disease not worse the flu!” are failing to notice the nuance. Cause there is nuances! Lots of it!
There’s risk with everything I try my best to list down the risks and the upsides and pick the choice who’s risks (known and unknown) that I’m fine living with.
You can’t live a risk free live, every moment you live in a city is a moment exposing yourself to population, radiation and so many other things. If you try to avoid every single risk you’ll never really live now would you?
So to go back to my question? What was riskier? Getting Covid or driving 13,000km?
Well, the real answer is neither, the actual risk I took was actually driving 13,000kms during the covid pandemic thanks to the societal consequences of “covid the pandemic” despite nearly no personal risk to “covid the disease”.
I love this quote, “Risk is what’s left over after you think you’ve thought of everything.”
It actually contradicts my use of the word “risk” in many parts of the the article. But if you’ve paid any attention to this article you’ll realize a small thought that I’ll like to leave you with.
Life is full of contradictions, and the smartest people I know are the ones who can hold two contradictory ideas in their head at the same time instead of lying to themselves and believing a simplified answer.