People are comparing COVID-19 deaths to the flu. Here's why it doesn't work.

As countries around the world pay rapt attention to the rising number of confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths from COVID-19, some confusion about the mathematics of it all keep floating around.

I've seen countless comments from people who say things like:

"The virus has only killed 20,000 people. The seasonal flu kills 60,000 people each year and we don't shut the country down for that!"

"Far more Americans die of flu/cancer/heart disease/etc. than will die from COVID-19 this year. Why aren't we shutting down the economy for those things?"


The idea that the coronavirus isn't markedly different or worse than the seasonal flu got an early hold in some people's consciousness when the virus first emerged. Part of the problem is that the virality and mortality of the virus hasn't been totally clear. Even Dr. Fauci and colleagues wrote an editorial published February 28 in the New England Journal of Medicine stating that the coronavirus death rates "may ultimately be more akin to those of a severe seasonal influenza (which has a case fatality rate of approximately 0.1%) or a pandemic influenza."

However, with a novel virus, things change quickly and experts' knowledge and understanding change along with it. As we saw numbers begin to emerge from around the world, it became clear that this virus is more contagious and far deadlier than the seasonal flu. Dr. Fauci stated in an interview with Trevor Noah on March 26 that the coronavirus was actually at least twice as contagious and ten times as deadly as the seasonal flu. Though death rates vary widely by country so far, and we won't have a clear picture of that rate for quite some time, it's clear that this isn't your average flu.

Additionally, normal flu seasons vary in severity, but the flu is largely a known quantity. We know there will be flu strains, and epidemiologists construct a vaccine each year based on their most informed guess as to which strains will be circulating the most. So we have vaccines and we have treatments to lessen flu severity, such as Tamiflu. And since flu-related deaths happen fairly evenly throughout flu season, our hospital system doesn't get overwhelmed by them.

Let's hold that thought about overwhelmed hospitals while we look at the other comment about various causes of death.

Yes, based on the numbers of deaths we've seen so far, more Americans die of things other than coronavirus each year. But there are some big "buts" here. Most of those causes of death are not communicable diseases. If shutting down the country for a period of time was guaranteed to save people's lives from heart disease or cancer, I'm sure we'd do that. But we are already doing what we can to try to reduce deaths from things like heart disease, cancer, car accidents, and the seasonal flu.

A viral pandemic gone unchecked is an entirely different beast. We have been watching both the case numbers and the death numbers rise dramatically, even after enacting social distancing and locking down the country.

This chart shows a daily visualization of the increase in COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. compared to the average daily deaths from various causes from March 1 to April 18, 2020. GIve it 10 seconds or so, since the virus deaths start off slow, but then really start really taking off after March 20.

By April 8, you can see that the virus's daily death toll overtakes every other cause of death in America.

This is called exponential growth. I've seen people say that coronavirus has killed 20,000 Americans in four months, making it sound like it was an average of 5,000 per month, but that's not how this works. In January, we had no deaths. In February, just a few. By March 26, we had 1,000. Less than 3 weeks later, we're at around 22,000. That's what we mean by exponential growth. No other cause of death does that.

And again, this is with mitigation measures in place for the past month. Imagine what it would look like if we'd kept up business as usual during the past few weeks and let the virus spread unchecked. This kind of exponential growth in deaths is exactly why nations around the globe have shut down businesses and enacted social distancing guidelines.

This is not the seasonal flu. We don't have a vaccine for this. We don't have a cure for this. We don't even have a sure-fire, reliable treatment for this.

The problem is that people see that numbers are not exploding as much as some models indicated they would and think "Oh, this has all been overblown!" They're only seeing some overwhelmed hospitals in select areas and think that means all of the widespread preparations and shutdowns weren't necessary. But that notion ignores the fact that the initial models provided an estimate for what would happen if we didn't shut the country down, which was an absolutely catastrophic outcome with millions of deaths. Without these "extreme" measures, the death toll would be far higher, and more hospitals would be out of beds and ventilators. And it's hard to predict beforehand where a big outbreak might spring up.

And we're not even close to out of the woods yet. Our case and death numbers are still climbing, though experts indicate that we may be at a peak where we might plateau for a while.

But the bottom line is that this virus is not like something we've seen before. The death numbers we've seen so far can't be compared to anything else. And we need to keep on doing what we're doing to keep those exponential numbers under control.





Courtesy of Farwiza Farhan
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Growing up in Indonesia, Farwiza Farhan always loved the ocean. It's why she decided to study marine biology. But the more she learned, the more she realized that it wasn't enough to work in the ocean. She needed to protect it.

"I see the ocean ecosystem collapsing due to overfishing and climate change," she says. "I felt powerless and didn't know what to do [so] I decided to pursue my master's in environmental management."

This choice led her to work in environmental protection, and it was fate that brought her back home to the Leuser Ecosystem in Sumatra, Indonesia — one of the last places on earth where species such as tigers, orangutans, elephants and Sumatran rhinoceros still live in the wild today. It's also home to over 300 species of birds, eight of which are endemic to the region.

"When I first flew over the Leuser Ecosystem, I saw an intact landscape, a contiguous block of lush, diverse vegetation stretched through hills and valleys. The Leuser is truly a majestic landscape — one of a kind."

She fell in love. "I had my first orangutan encounter in the Leuser Ecosystem," she remembers. "As the baby orangutan swung from the branches, seemingly playing and having fun, the mother was observing us. I was moved by the experience."

Courtesy of Farwiza Farhan

"Over the years," she continues, "the encounters with wildlife, with people, and with the ecosystem itself compounded. My curiosity and interest towards nature have turned into a deep desire to protect this biodiversity."

So, she began working for a government agency tasked to protect it. After the agency dismantled for political reasons in the country, Farhan decided to create the HAkA Foundation.

"The goals [of HAkA] are to protect, conserve and restore the Leuser Ecosystem while at the same time catalyzing and enabling just economic prosperity for the region," she says.

"Wild areas and wild places are rare these days," she continues. "We think gold and diamonds are rare and therefore valuable assets, but wild places and forests, like the Leuser Ecosystems, are the kind of natural assets that essentially provide us with life-sustaining services."

"The rivers that flow through the forest of the Leuser Ecosystem are not too dissimilar to the blood that flows through our veins. It might sound extreme, but tell me — can anyone live without water?"

Courtesy of Farwiza Farhan

So far, HAkA has done a lot of work to protect the region. The organization played a key role in strengthening laws that bring the palm oil companies that burn forests to justice. In fact, their involvement led to an unprecedented, first-of-its-kind court decision that fined one company close to $26 million.

In addition, HAkA helped thwart destructive infrastructure plans that would have damaged critical habitat for the Sumatran elephants and rhinos. They're working to prevent mining destruction by helping communities develop alternative livelihoods that don't damage the forests. They've also trained hundreds of police and government rangers to monitor deforestation, helping to establish the first women ranger teams in the region.

"We have supported multiple villages to create local regulation on river and land protection, effectively empowering communities to regain ownership over their environment."

She is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year. The donation she receives as a nominee is being awarded to the Ecosystem Impact Foundation. The small local foundation is working to protect some of the last remaining habitats of the critically endangered leatherback turtle that lives on the west coast of Sumatra.

"The funds will help the organization keep their ranger employed so they can continue protecting the islands, endangered birds and sea turtle habitats," she says.

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen. Do you know an inspiring woman like Farwiza? Nominate her today!

Jennifer Lawrence

After being a Hollywood staple, Jennifer Lawrence vanished from the public eye following the release of "X-Men Dark Phoenix" in 2019.

Sure, the pandemic had something to do with that … in addition to the usual way our society treats Hollywood "it" girls, once it grows accustomed to the flavor. But in a recent interview with Vanity Fair, Lawrence opens up about some other reasons she chose to step away for a time.

Lawrence went from being a highly sought-after Oscar-winning actress to starring in less-than-successful films like "Passengers," "Mother!" and "Red Sparrow." The films were not only poorly received among critics, but commercially as well.

"I was not pumping out the quality that I should have," she told VF. "I just think everybody had gotten sick of me. I'd gotten sick of me. It had just gotten to a point where I couldn't do anything right. If I walked a red carpet, it was, 'Why didn't she run?'"

So then, why do it? As any workaholic would know, it's about so much more than money.

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Courtesy of Ms. Lopez
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Marcella Lopez didn't always want to be a teacher — but once she became one, she found her passion. That's why she's stayed in the profession for 23 years, spending the past 16 at her current school in Los Angeles, where she mostly teaches children of color.

"I wanted purpose, to give back, to live a life of public service, to light the spark in others to think critically and to be kind human beings," she says. "More importantly, I wanted my students to see themselves when they saw me, to believe they could do it too."

Ms. Lopez didn't encounter a teacher of color until college. "That moment was life-changing for me," she recalls. "It was the first time I felt comfortable in my own skin as a student. Always remembering how I felt in that college class many years ago has kept me grounded year after year."

It's also guided her teaching. Ms. Lopez says she always selects authors and characters that represent her students and celebrate other ethnicities so students can relate to what they read while also learning about other cultures.

"I want them to see themselves in the books they read, respect those that may not look like them and realize they may have lots in common with [other cultures] they read about," she says.

She also wants her students to have a different experience in school than she did.

When Ms. Lopez was in first grade, she "was speaking in Spanish to a new student, showing her where the restroom was when a staff member overheard our conversation and directed me to not speak in Spanish," she recalls. "In 'this school,' we only speak English," she remembers them saying. "From that day forward, I was made to feel less-than and embarrassed to speak the language of my family, my ancestors; the language I learned to speak first."

Part of her job, she says, is to find new ways to promote acceptance and inclusion in her classroom.

"The worldwide movement around social justice following the death of George Floyd amplified my duty as a teacher to learn how to discuss racial equity in a way that made sense to my little learners," she says. "It ignited me to help them see themselves in a positive light, to make our classroom family feel more inclusive, and make our classroom a safe place to have authentic conversations."

One way she did that was by raising money through DonorsChoose to purchase books and other materials for her classroom that feature diverse perspectives.

Courtesy of Ms. Lopez

The Allstate Foundation recently partnered with DonorsChoose to create a Racial Justice and Representation category to encourage teachers like Ms. Lopez to create projects that address racial equity in the classroom. To launch the category, The Allstate Foundation matched all donations to these projects for a total of $1.5 million. Together, they hope to drive awareness and funding to projects that bring diversity, inclusion, and identity-affirming learning materials into classrooms across the country. You can see current projects seeking funding here.

When Ms. Lopez wanted to incorporate inclusive coloring books into her lesson plans, The Allstate Foundation fully funded her project so she was able to purchase them.

"I'm a lifelong learner, striving to be my best version of myself and always working to inspire my little learners to do the same," she says. Each week, Ms. Lopez and the students would focus on a page in the book and discuss its message. And she plans to do the same again this school year.

"DonorsChoose has been a gamechanger for my students. Without the support of all the donors that come together on this platform, we wouldn't have a sliver of what I've been able to provide for my students, especially during the pandemic," she says.

"My passion is to continue striving to be excellent, and to continue to find ways to use literature as an anchor, depicting images that reflect my students," she says.

To help teachers like Ms. Lopez drive this important mission forward, donate on DonorsChoose.

Courtesy of Ms. Lopez

This story was originally published on The Mighty and originally appeared here on 07.21.17


Most people imagine depression equals “really sad," and unless you've experienced depression yourself, you might not know it goes so much deeper than that. Depression expresses itself in many different ways, some more obvious than others. While some people have a hard time getting out of bed, others might get to work just fine — it's different for everyone.

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Tired of avocados turning brown? Try this simple trick.

Ah, the delicious, creamy avocado. We love it, despite its fleeting ripeness and frustrating tendency to turn brown when you try to store it. From salads to guacamole to much-memed millennial avocado toast, the weird berry (that's right—it's a berry) with the signature green flesh is one of the more versatile fruits, but also one of the more fickle. Once an avocado is ready, you better cut it open within hours because it's not going to last.

Once it's cut, an avocado starts to oxidize, turning that green flesh a sickly brown color. It's not harmful to eat, but it's not particularly appetizing. The key to keeping the browning from happening is to keep the flesh from being exposed to oxygen.

Some people rub an unused avocado half with oil to keep oxidation at bay. Others swear by squeezing some lemon juice over it. Some say placing plastic wrap tightly over it with the pit still in it will keep it green.

But a YouTube video from Avocados from Mexico demonstrates a quick, easy, eco-friendly way to store half an avocado that doesn't require anything but a container and some water.

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