Covid by the Numbers

I was feeling better before I started this. How much better? Two, three, 500 times better? It’s hard to say. Numbers are blurring in my mind.

Six is a number I’m clear about. Come Sunday, six is the number of weeks I will have spent in this place. Two, the number of people in my household. Two, the number of people I know personally who have died from Covid-19.

Two hours old, the official death toll I read this morning: 14 in the rural county where I’ve been sheltering; 11,267 in my city, New York; 15,302 in my state; 48,201 in this country; 185,494 counted dead so far across the world.

Two and three quarters of a million—that’s the number of cases worldwide as of this morning.

Million, I always have to check, is two groups of three zeroes. One million is 1 zero zero zero zero zero zero. To write 20 million, the number of Americans currently officially unemployed, I’d have to add one more.

Four to five hundred million dollars is what our deadly president claims the US is contributing to the World Health Organization per year—the contribution he says he wants to suspend. For reference, $300 million is what Mr Trump owes Deutsche Bank on loans connected to the Trump Organization’s failing Washington hotel, the same hotel for which the Trump Organization has applied to the Trump Administration for relief.

The World Health Organization’s budget is in the billions—about $2.4 billion. To save a billion dollars, I’ve heard that I’d have to save $100 a day for more than 27,000 years or 304 generations.

$2.4 billion is a lot. It’s even more than the US Department of Homeland Security will spend on the president’s idiotic border wall this year ($2 billion), but a good deal less than that same sick project will also receive from the Department of Defense ($3.8 billion).

Ten times 2.4 billion is what Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has made in 2020.  Want to pay the WHO to fight pandemics and poverty around the world for a decade?  One man called Jeff could do it today and still be worth $114.5 billion as he was at the end of last year.

That’s two four, zero zero zero, zero zero zero, zero zero zero, in just three months. 

Which takes me back to three. The number of weeks before she died that we saw our friend. 64, the number of years since her birth that at least that many of us were celebrating.

Zero, the number of ways to measure the volume or touch of a life or its absence.

Numb, that’s what all these numbers tend to make us, but we’d better snap out of it, because one thing’s for sure, our days, and the days of living with math like this, are numbered.

To watch my interview with Hamid Khan of the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition about contact tracing in a surveillance state, or my conversation with Su Friedrich about the invisible women of film editing, go to

Laura Flanders interviews forward-thinking people about the key questions of our time on The Laura Flanders Show, a nationally syndicated radio and television program also available as a podcast. A contributing writer to The Nation, Flanders is also the author of six books, including The New York Times best-seller, BUSHWOMEN: Tales of a Cynical Species.  She is the recipient of a 2019 Izzy Award for excellence in independent journalism, the Pat Mitchell Lifetime Achievement Award for advancing women’s and girls’ visibility in media and a 2020 Lannan Cultural Freedom Fellowship for her reporting and advocacy for public media.