Why Numbers Don’t (Initially) Matter


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I write this post with no intention of providing “dangerous” material on the web, but rather my thoughts on how this is all playing out now and into the future.

With one-third of the country begging to reopen faster, one-third urging to remain closed longer, and one-third just not caring – it seems as if there is no winning with human behavior and COVID-19.

Human beings are emotional creatures. Our emotions cause us to engage in irrational decision-making and not believing what may be true. For example: Buying non-sensical amounts of toilet tissue roll paper or believing a rush-ordered vaccine will save the day. With COVID-19 paralyzing much of the world, especially the United States, many are left confused and scared. Their friends, co-workers, and/or family members have caught the virus — some have died. The problem is, there are many components to this pandemic besides arguing on whether to stay indoors versus going out. Fun fact: The elderly are going out mask-less and the younger generations, typically healthier, are staying indoors — masked.

Some of these components are: how many people have co-morbidities such as hypertension, diabetes, pulmonary disease, etc., what news outlets are reporting on COVID-19, your political affiliation, an immediate family/friend who has COVID-19 or has passed from it’s acceleration of already immunocompromised states, your vaccination stance, your career, and more. The list goes on and yes, my friend, these components matter. Moving on, it has been and will always be difficult to report on statistical facts. Data has never been “sexy.” Research has never been “sexy.” It never will.

Introduce, marketing.

Regardless of whether a liberal or conservative news outlet posts updates on their state, most people will refuse to believe the numbers only until the masses have been moved by emotion. Why are click-baits title a thing? Why does the color red induce fear or danger? Why blue represent strength, trust, and credibility? As I mentioned above, humans will refuse to believe what is real only if their beliefs align with the source reporting it. Fear is an emotion that paralyzes our psyche. It’s a tool used to manipulate human behavior. Multiply fear on a national level and now you have a country that is stuck. A whole country that is stuck at a high school level comprehension level is dangerous place to be. Arguments will arise with no solution in mind, besides an irrational one led by public figures. The opposite of fear is assurance, boldness, or confidence. With COVID-19 in effect since early March, has there been any publication of positive psychology? No, there hasn’t. Could there be? Certainly. Optimism that the country will move on and be okay. An urge for institutions to enforce self-care.

The only way out of this mess is by two measures: more states reporting flattening of the curve by a decision they made (regardless of red or blue state) or by mass-produced vaccination. Period. There are audiences who believe only a vaccine will save this extinction, audiences who believe the virus will just disappear and the angels will sing, and some who believe the only way through this is by exposing yourself to it and realizing this is a wake-up call to better health. Even if the numbers do rise/fall, will you believe it until you are moved?

As mentioned before, who you are as a person has much more to do with this pandemic than you think. Outlets may report a decline in COVID-19 cases but, will you believe it? Outlets may report an increase in cases but, will you believe it? How you choose to engage with people, the tone of your voice, the words you speak with, your critical thinking skills, the use of logic over emotion, your non-biased worldview, your ego left at the door, your relationships, your health, and human behavior in its simplest form dictates the growth or paralysis of the country.

So, I ask you — how will you engage?

Dr. Modi

Dr. Milan Modi

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