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Today, a number has gotten my attention.  217,692.  What is this number and why is it important?  Continue reading...

Today is Friday, October 16, 2020.  A number has gotten my attention.  217,692.




That’s 217,692 people who have died of Covid-19 in 2020 (so far), according to John’s Hopkins University.  I am not here to debate how covid deaths are calculated.  I’m typing this because I'm thinking about this number.  Can you comprehend 200,000 people? I can’t really understand it, so I started thinking about where large numbers of people would congregate.


Who has gone to a BSU football game?  That’s a big stadium.  It feels huge in there, and when it’s packed with people, it seems enormous by Idaho standards.  Albertson’s Stadium seats 36,387 people.  It would take six stadiums to seat 217,692 people.  I can’t visualize that either.


What’s bigger?


Mile High Stadium, home to the Colorado Rockies baseball team has a capacity of 76,273 people.  It would take 3 of these stadiums to seat 217,692 people.


What’s bigger?


The largest stadium in the United States of America is the Michigan Stadium, home of the University of Michigan Wolverines, which is nick-named “The Big House.”  The name is well earned because it has a capacity of 107,601.  And yet it would take two Michigan Stadiums to seat 217,692 people.


What’s bigger?


Cities are bigger.  Lots of cities have a population of 200,000 people.  Let’s look at a few:

Tacoma, Washington—estimated 2019 population of 217,827 by US Census Bureau.  This city is an 8 hour drive away.  They are practically our neighbors.  I have colleagues who live and practice there.  I have classmates from my graduate degree program who live there.  But I have never been there myself, so I cannot imagine it.


Des Moines, Iowa—estimated 2019 population of 214,237.  I drove through this city when I moved to Idaho.  It was big.  But I cannot really imagine it.


Rochester, New York—estimated 2019 population of 205,695.  One of my school friends moved there in 7th grade, and I visited her there.  I have fond memories of riding horses and motorcycles with her and her family.  But I cannot really imagine it.


Grand Rapids, Michigan—estimated 2019 population of 201,959.  I went to college in this city.  My home town is only a 45 minute drive away.  When I was 20 years old, this was the big city nearby.  It felt huge.  Two malls.  Two big hospital systems.  Busy highways.  And a whole lot of traffic.  To this day, I am not fond of driving the US 131 S-Curve.  It takes 20 minutes of driving on major surface streets to get from John Ball Zoo to Frederik Meijer Gardens.  I went to 6 bridal shops on one day in this city to find my wedding dress. I can imagine this city.


Now imagine it empty.  It’s a ghost town.  Every single person is gone.  No one at the zoo.  No one at the gardens.  No one in the hospital.  No one at the mall. No one at any of those six bridal shops.  Not a single car on any surface street or highway.  No one on that dreaded S-curve of US 131.


That’s 200,000 people.  That’s how many people have died from this virus.


But I don’t suppose many of you are familiar with Grand Rapids, Michigan.  So you can’t imagine it.


Let’s look at Boise.  Our estimated population in 2019 is 228,959.    

Boise, Idaho is the city I have adopted as my home.  I’ve lived here for almost 25 years.  I can imagine this town well.  Kathryn Albertson Park, the foothills, the botanical gardens, Bogus Basin, the Boise River, all the natural food stores where I love to shop, the church I attend, the Greenbelt, St. Luke’s, St. Al’s, the Connector, the mall, my neighbor businesses, the five lanes of traffic on I-84 between Boise and Meridian, the playgrounds, the soccer fields, the public parks, the practices of my colleagues and professional network, the farmer’s market, the school my children attend, the zoo, the BSU football stadium, Steelheads hockey arena, my neighborhood—all empty.  What would that look like?  How would that feel?  This is unimaginable.


That’s 228,959 people.


The 2019 estimated population of Boise, Idaho is 11,267 people more than the current deaths from Covid-19.  Yesterday, 793 people died.  If we continue this rate, in fourteen days (14 days!), the Covid-19 deaths will reach the population of Boise.  In two weeks!


That’s 228,000 people.


That’s staggering.


No matter how hard I try, I cannot comprehend the sheer number of lives that have been lost to this virus.  I’ve looked at annual death rates of car accidents (38,800 in 2019) and breast cancer (41,760 in 2019) and others, but cannot find one single cause of death that compares to this.  I cannot comprehend how many people this is, and I have been trying!  (I admit that I did not do an exhaustive search.  I looked for a few cause of deaths that I thought might be useful for number comparison, but gave up after a few searches.)  


In Idaho, we have not been hit with Covid as much as other states.  We have a smaller population, we have a lower population density, we have more rural areas.  So it may not have hit home as much.  Covid may not have affected you personally or anyone you love; it may seem like something that is “out there” in the world, that is happening in other places.  But it’s not.  It’s here too.  One of those 793 people who died yesterday was in Idaho.  I don’t know his or her name, I don’t know his or her story.  His or her life hasn’t intersected with mine, as far as I know.  


Except for one way.  217,692.


And way too soon, it will be 228,000 people.  The population of Boise, Idaho.  I can imagine that ghost town, and I don’t like that image.


What can we do?  Wash our hands? Wear a mask? Stay 6 feet apart?  That’s just too simple!  It can’t be effective! 

Friends, simple can be effective.  Until that time when we have safe and effective treatments, safe and effective vaccines, prevention is the best thing that we can do.


Wash your hands.  Stay 6 feet apart.  Wear a mask around other people not in your household.  Eat fruits and vegetables.  Get plenty of sleep.  Manage stress.  Get some exercise.

Posted by Karole Beck at 10/20/2020 2:32:00 AM
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