By S. I. Wells
Senior Columnist

We live in a very unusual, very dangerous and very disruptive time. With COVID-19 still in the first wave, with a massive economic slowdown due to the virus and with racial unrest, each day is far from what anyone could have imagined on January 1, 2020 at the start of a new decade.

As statistics pour into our consciousness every morning, noon and night, there is a tendency to become overwhelmed and shut it all down. Cover your ears and close your eyes and you won't see policemen committing murder on the nightly news. Ignore the politics, ignore the warnings, ignore personal safety protections, party like it was January 2020 and believe that nothing in life has changed.

Sheltering at home, social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands, avoiding crowds does not comport with our lifestyles and causes stress to build, depression to surface and genuine concern for family and friends.

Accepting these times is hard. One way to truly understand the seriousness of our collective circumstances is to put things into a realistic perspective. Facts matter. Reality matters, although sometimes it feels like we are living through a nightmarish episode of the Twilight Zone.

So, let's examine our current situation. I think the story can be told with just two statistics: 1) the number of people receiving unemployment payments; and, 2) the number of deaths from the coronavirus in the United States in 2020.

As of early July 2020, there were 19.2 million continuing unemployment claims. What does that mean? Clearly, it is a big number. But can you really comprehend what 19.2 million people look like? Let me make it easy.

Here is the estimated population of the five largest cities in America as of 2019:

New York.........8,336,817
Los Angeles.....3,979,576


What do 19.2 million people look like – just imagine every man, woman and child in ALL of these five cities simultaneously in long breadlines at very big soup kitchens.

Now let's look at the death statistics for COVID-19 in 2020. That number just exceeded 130,000 people who have died from this disease. One Hundred Thirty Thousand.

We hear the number who died every day, every morning, every noon and every night. Repeating, repeating, repeating the number numbs us to its importance.

The mistake is focusing on the number and forgetting that these are human beings, individual souls, who suffered a premature death. One Hundred Thirty Thousand mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, great-grandmothers, great-grandfathers, baby boomers, millennials, teenagers, children and everyone in-between.

So, let's give that some perspective, too. Here are a few U.S. cities with populations between 130,000 and 145,000 (taking into account the death toll will continue to rise through the summer of 2020):

Savannah, Georgia..................144,464
Syracuse, New York................142,327
Pasadena, California..............141,029
Dayton, Ohio...........................140,407
Charleston, South Carolina...137,566
Coral Springs, Florida...........133,759
New Haven, Connecticut........130,250

And the list goes on and on. Just pick one of the above cities and imagine that every man, woman and child in that city died in less than four months. Imagine any one of those cities as an instant ghost town, empty, lifeless and barren.

That is what the death toll of COVID-19 is in America. The virus has forced us to sacrifice the equivalent of all the people in one of those great, vibrant cities with its unique heritage and culture.

Putting our hands over our ears and closing our eyes or politicizing a deadly virus is not the solution. It will take smart, responsible people to lead America out of this ditch. Working our way through the pandemic and the economic collapse can be done. Frankly, it must be done, or tens of millions of Americans will suffer through a dark decade that is littered with disease, poverty and death on a scale not seen in centuries.

If we turn our humanity and compassion loose, however, there is little we cannot achieve, as long as we respect that mother nature and her coronavirus will always trump politics.



S. I. Wells has worked in foreign diplomacy, public broadcasting, the Federal court system and healthcare during his career. He is a senior columnist for Stay Thirsty Magazine and writes on topics that range from the economy to social policy to politics. 

All opinions expressed are solely those of its author and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.