Life is a gamble. Risk lies everywhere. Such as being killed by a lightning bolt. But that's unlikely, according to experts. If 60,000 to 80,000 humans stood in a field during a lightning storm, odds are that only one person would be struck.
The odds of a fairly early death for lifetime cigarette smokers are much less optimistic. Same for a person who climbs mountain peaks while drinking bourbon and smoking weed.
What are the odds that you and I will die of COVID-19? Are insurance companies doing such calculations these days? I would think so. As I write this column, Time Magazine's latest issue has a cover saying that COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. will soon hit the 200,000 mark. That's a fearsome statistic.
But it could be a lot worse, according to my handy-dandy pocket calculator. Our country is home to 326 million people. Out of that immense gathering, the 200,000 predicted victims of COVID-19 will amount to only 0.06% of the population. Those are odds that any gambler on earth would be delighted to work with.
Am I dismissing the virus as something to be feared and ignored, if at all possible? Of course not. But millions of Americans are doing just that. By not wearing masks and by refusing to observe other safety precautions, they are saying, "The hell with the scientific precautions. We'll take our chances."
As one writer put it: Today many Americans seem willing to accept mass death from COVID-19. This is commendable when we're in a military war, but it's a lousy way to fight a worldwide epidemic.
And guess what? Most of these risk-takers are getting away with it, even when they test positive. Recovery rates for COVID-19 victims are in the 99% bracket.
Even so, surviving a COVID infection does not guarantee freedom from serious aftereffects. These may include fatigue, headaches, loss of smell, sore throats, chest pain, coughing and delirium. But having recognized those possible dangers, the likelihood remains: If you or I test positive for the virus today, we will probably still be here a month or year from now.
Is that a comforting fact? If so, it may keep millions of Americans from observing the proven safety effect of masks, 6-foot distancing, avoiding crowds, and other proven safeguards. And that's bad.
New subject: Where are the end-of-the-worlders? Especially the severely religious people who, from birth onward, are taught that Armageddon, the Rapture or the Second Coming are sure to arrive any day now. COVID-19 seems to fill the bill on those and other end-of-the-world predictions.
I've been expecting evangelists of the various pentecostal churches to climb aboard the pandemic train and ride it into eternity or whatever else may await us. But so far I've been unaware of any doomsday announcements occurring since last winter, when COVID-19 made its debut on the world scene. But I could be wrong.
Americans and other human groups can be stupid, but we can also be tough in the face of disaster. COVID-19 may one day be conquered. But only time will tell whether earthlings can overcome other threats, such as stupidity, ignorance, distrust, rivalries and greed. For those longstanding attitudes, there are no vaccines.
Except, perhaps, the kindness and other decencies that you and I may manifest in our daily dealings.