Statistics have a bad reputation – we have all heard the expression, “lies, damn lies and statistics."
Statistics have often been used to distort the truth and provide misleading information. In the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, using statistics on death rates is a blatant attempt to push the narrative that the situation is under control.
Recently, Premier Jason Kenney said, “The average age of death from COVID in Alberta is 83, and I’ll remind the house that the average life expectancy in the province is 82.” Kenney also said the chance of someone under the age of 65 dying from COVID-19 is less than one per cent.
These are all valid statistics, but are also a terrible misuse of numbers that provide some individuals a false sense of security and cause a careless attitude.
For example, I was recently in Sobeys and pointed out to another customer that he was walking down the grocery aisle in the wrong direction. He looked at me like I had two heads and said he didn’t care.
I am in a demographic vulnerable to COVID-19. If I get the virus, I may die or pass it to my in-laws, who are at increased risk because they are older than 83. If I contract the virus, I may pass it on to my wife, who is also in a vulnerable demographic. If I get the virus, I may pass it on to another person in the community, who has a 3 in 50,000 chance of dying. Do we want to take that chance?
Statistics are facts and not feelings. By using statistics in this way, Kenney and others are essentially saying to me, I am merely a statistic, not a person. However, my headstone will not read, “Here lies a statistic...”