I had been saying for months that I wanted some sort of percentage that compared the chances of dying from COVID next to some other way of dying, let’s say in a traffic accident, a way of dying that we all just accept as being a risk that exists but never prevents us from getting in the car, and I finally came across something just like that recently. I won’t link it here because no way can I be assured of its accuracy, but it should have alleviated my virus anxiety in a pretty big way.

I mean, statistically, my personal chances — according to this one maybe-dubious source — are low that I will die. A 0.104% chance, specifically. My chances of catching it (and then there is the unknown of recovery, all those stories about “long haulers” dealing with all kinds of lingering damage are pretty distressing) are higher, 5%, but still fairly low.

(Also please take those numbers with a giant grain of salt, I know everything about COVID is a moving target and there’s no way to be accurate about risks yet.)

Anyway, it does help to try and put things in perspective when I feel a runaway train of worry barreling through my head, but there’s the rational side of me and then there’s the side of me that is always, always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

My deepest fear is that I have had this incredibly lucky life and because I don’t deserve it, there is a massive karmic reckoning coming. I know that sounds ridiculous and dramatic, but it’s the truth. The COVID odds don’t soothe me because when I think of someone drawing that bad card, I think, why shouldn’t that person be me, or worse, someone I love?

What an insanely self-absorbed way to think, right? And it’s not even a helpful way to think, in the sense that these gloomy thoughts drive more useful self-protective behaviors.

I have no good conclusion about any of this. Just that I am tired of thinking about it and I bet you sure are too.


9 Responses to “The bad card”

  1. Rachel on September 4th, 2020 9:05 am

    For the entirety of this mess I’ve felt that my odds of dying were very low. The thing about this is the SPREAD. My anxiety is spreading it to someone that it could kill. That’s why I’m afraid to get it, because I could give it to someone.

    Also, I have felt my whole life that I’ve been too lucky and am destined to have something horrible happened. I think if something horrible did actually happen I’d be like, “of course, I’ve been waiting for you” but that might not be how it really played out.

  2. PETE J HAIDINYAK on September 4th, 2020 9:49 am

    I worked with a guy who was an avid sky diver. He said he quit the sport. Even though there was less than a 1% chance of dying in a dive he was losing friends because if you sky dive enough the odds become close to 100%
    Statistics can be fun.

  3. Cara on September 4th, 2020 11:14 am

    I have the same problem, for very different reasons. My family has experienced the 1 in 100,000 “we are very sorry. The odds are very low, but sometimes this happens” event. We call it the lightning strike. However low the odds, we now live with the reality that sometimes lightning does strike and sometimes it strikes you. I can read all the statistics in the world, but it won’t stop me from being unwilling to take even an iota more risk than we have to. The illusion of control, even knowing it is an illusion, is all that is keeping me calm right now.

  4. Kelly on September 4th, 2020 12:55 pm

    I feel like Rachel does. Far less worried about myself, but could not bear to pass it to one/some of the more vulnerable ones in our lives. And actually, since this all started, I have had some medical changes that now have me in the high-risk group, too.

  5. sooboo on September 4th, 2020 2:17 pm

    A year ago I had one of the worst chest colds of my life. I had trouble breathing and I probably should have gone to the hospital. It took forever to recover. Thinking back on that and how this is so much worse I’m taking no risks here, no travel, no hair cuts, no social distant visits with friends, no going into stores. However, I live in a Los Angeles which is still being hit pretty hard. Not everyone in my circle is being this cautious which has caused tensions. I know someone who died from this back in March and I know several people who have lost parents and older siblings to it.

    I hear on the “other shoe dropping” way of thinking. It’s not helpful but it’s hard not to look for ways to forecast the future when we lose control. I am also so tired of thinking and talking about this. Books have been a great escape. I know you’re an avid reader. I’d love some book recommendations!

  6. Melissa on September 5th, 2020 7:58 am

    I was diagnosed with brain cancer the same week everyone in my family (everyone I live with) was diagnosed with covid. Three months later, I’m fine and they’re fine (speaking relatively). All this to say, no matter what, you’ll be fine.

  7. Courtney on September 6th, 2020 7:31 am

    With cars, we wear our seat belts, we have cars with air bags, cars that are designed to protect the people inside them if it is in a crash, cars with buck up cameras and lane assists. Cars used to be a lot more dangerous, we figured out ways to mitigate that. It took time. We have figured out some ways to help mitigate the spread of this particular virus, which happens to also mitigate the spread of other viruses. It’s going to take time will we figure out exactly how to live with it. Meanwhile, wear your mask, wash your hands, don’t go to big parties.

  8. MEP on September 8th, 2020 8:21 am

    “My deepest fear is that I have had this incredibly lucky life and because I don’t deserve it, there is a massive karmic reckoning coming.”

    So true! I feel that way about myself, but I never feel that way about folks whose kids have had terrible accidents, or who get diagnosed with horrible diseases. I never think they must have done something to deserve it, but if it happened to me, I would think that I did.

  9. Shawna on September 8th, 2020 2:02 pm

    This is tricky to estimate because your odds of dying of any one thing are influenced by many factors, including age, income, where you live, etc. But in the US, according to the CDC numbers, between the beginning of February and the end of August 104,779 people died who were aged 45-54 years, and of those 9,047 were linked to Covid, which is 8.6%. If you haven’t hit 45 yet, the numbers for ages 34-44 are 3,450 Covid-linked deaths out of a total 56,730 deaths in the country, which is 6.1%.

    For comparison, for ages 5-14 (I believe Riley was still 14 during this time period) there were 28 Covid-linked deaths out of 3,027 total, so that’s only 0.9% of all deaths in this age group since February, which is reassuring for those of us with kids! And it’s important to remember that’s not 0.9% of the population, or a 0.9% death rate of kids that were diagnosed who died, this number is saying that less than a percent of all kids who died in the US did so because of Covid.

    If you’re looking for comparisons to other manners of death, this might be useful if you can find out how many people in those age brackets died of other causes during that time period and presumably were also counted in the total deaths.

    Of course, you can try to figure out what your odds are of catching it, and of those who catch it, what the odds for people in your age group are of death, but since there’s no real way to know how many people caught it, only how many were actually tested and diagnosed, it would be much harder to be sure of the accuracy of that approach.

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