Larry Clark

Larry Clark

Numbers do not lie. In our world, numbers have no meaning without human recognition. Only humans can manipulate numbers or ignore them as a matter of convenience.

If it suits us, we can make up numbers. Sometimes, we don’t let facts get in the way of our ambitions.

I hear complaints that too much is being made of the novel coronavirus outbreak. Really? Novel means it’s a new strain. We have not developed bodily defense mechanisms to fend off the disease. Even though annual influenza mutates, it’s been around long enough for us to build some natural resistance, however incomplete that might be.

We have vaccines to help us resist because medical science is always trying to figure out what might happen next year.

Coronavirus is a surprise, and it’s more apt to kill you than the flu. Its spread is now global. Some countries are worse hit than others. China, where the coronavirus originated (as did SARS), reports the fatality rate ranges between 0.2 percent in children and almost 15 percent in older adults with men more susceptible than women.

Globally, the average fatality rate is somewhere between 2.6 percent and 3.4 percent, depending on who’s doing the talking. Infection totals are in the thousands, thank goodness, not hundreds of thousands. So far.

Here are some numbers, just for comparative purposes. The population of the United States is approximately 331 million. If 10 percent of the population gets the coronavirus, that’s 3.31 million. If the death rate is 1 percent, that’s 331,000 people.

So consider that 331,000 people worldwide will die from coronavirus. Is that better? No. There are no acceptable losses in an epidemic.

The extreme measures taken to prevent the spread of the virus and treat the sick apparently contribute to keeping the number of victims low, considering the virulent nature of the disease. Chinese officials claim there is at least one instance of the virus spreading through an open pipe.

So we are not making too much out of the Coronavirus threat. It is because we are making so much out of it that we Americans are not besieged as are people in other countries. Our medical experts also understand this disease could get out of hand quickly if we aren’t aggressive with prevention.

We do not want to know the outcome of a ho-hum attitude. Extreme measures? Absolutely. To avoid extreme consequences.

The news media is not overreacting. Real news-people are citing real numbers and actual experts who are trying to arm us with knowledge we need.

Humans are congregational. It’s a strength, for sure, and at times a weakness. We prop up each other and also share our illnesses because our lives closely intertwine. Thus, it’s a convoluted situation: We should not panic, but we are in a state of emergency.

Perform a Web search for “influenza world war 1.” Take a look at those numbers and decide if our posture today is over the top.

We have the smartest people in medical science telling us what to do to minimize coronavirus exposure and lower the odds for infection. For that, I am grateful. I do not want thousands of people to show up as losses in a database.

In my lifetime, I — like many of you — have seen too many new ways to die to downplay a proactive approach to a deadly virus that we may as well say popped up out of nowhere.

I treated obituaries with respect and compassion when I was a full-time journalist. A rule was not required to tell me that attitude is correct.

Many people set a high priority on reading all the obits in the newspaper. Be that as it may, it was always a good day when the number of obits was down. I hope it stays that way.

Larry Clark is a News Herald correspondent who can be reached at at

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