People Are Still Dying From Covid-19, So Why Is America Reopening?

Four words: Acceptable rate of loss

Scott Woods
LEVEL
Published in
5 min readMay 20, 2021

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Photo: Getty Images

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With more states removing mask mandates and other Covid-19 restrictions in coming weeks, I’ve suddenly found myself in a number of discussions about next steps: How swiftly should schools open? For small business, is this good news or a death sentence? Will live music return with the numbers it needs to staunch the bleeding of closing venues? How can we ever know who in the room is actually vaccinated?

But none of that is what I want to talk about. I want to talk about what’s underneath all of those questions, about why this is happening the way that it’s happening right now.

I live in Ohio. We’re catching about the same daily rate of cases as we were in October 2020 — an average of about 1,100 cases daily over a seven-day period. Everyone thought that was a terrifying rate back in October because it was, and still should be, but isn’t because we’re Ohioans and we like to eat out a lot. There are a handful of ways to parse that data out for whatever debate you’re looking for, but that’s essentially what’s happening: Things are opening back up and every authority responsible for guidelines has decided people will suddenly become more empathetic to their fellow man. The pandemic infrastructure of my state has more tools now than it did last year to combat the disease, so cases are trending flat, but contrary to the hopeful spirit of the impending changes, cases are not trending “away” yet.

A temptation here is to think that the state (or the country for that matter) is relying on hope; that they are watching the data and hoping things play out the way they want. They hope people jump at the incentive of a million-dollar lottery for random vaccinated Ohioans to get shots.

But hope doesn’t have anything to do with it, and that’s what I want to remind people of.

None of the stuff I’ve mentioned already is really what I want to talk about, but they are things that must be said first. I’m mostly addressing folks who are frustrated by announcements regarding the removal of safety measures at what…

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Scott Woods
LEVEL
Writer for

Writer and poet holding down Columbus, Ohio