Numbers are a whole lot more important now than they were just a few months ago, aka those ancient times before a virus too little bitty to see caused worldwide havoc.

Seems like every second person you meet is either a statistician or convinced they possess more medical knowledge than those folks who needed a decade or so of learnin’ to earn a pretty sheet of paper and some nifty initials to put behind their names.

Virtually everyone knows someone who knows someone who read the real truth somewhere on the Internet or trolling through social media pages about the COVID-19 pandemic – and if Joe/Jill’s neighbors’ cousin’s brother’s aunt is a nurse and she didn’t disagree – well that’s sure enough the proof of that.

Just looking at the numbers, our little county is in great shape or should be thinking about hunkering down.

About 200 folk out of about 42,000 in Wharton County have tested positive – less than a half percent of all the people living here. Of those, a bit more than 80 live right here in El Campo.

That’s no big deal right? So few people it’s not worth mentioning? Are you sure about that?

Let’s take those same numbers and apply them to something else.

What if there had been about 80 vehicles within the city limits broken into this year – most in the last month? Would that be a big deal?

What if 80 people got food poisoning?

What if 80 folks were mugged?

What if 80 folks had a mysterious stranger stop them and hand over a $100 bill, right here in El Campo and it could happen again at any time?

What if 80 auto wrecks took place in the last six months in the city limits?

What if 80 grocery store bills were paid in full by that same mysterious stranger who may still be lurking?

What if 80 people just flat vanished?

What if 80 potholes went unfixed breaking vehicle axles/causing flats?

What if 80 people got bit by squirrels?

What if the town siren sounded one time for each of those people infected every single day?

What if 80 customers left your business/place of work/etc?

What if you had an 80 out of 42,000 chance of winning $1,000 every day?

What if even one of those 80 folks might have coughed on you three days ago?

If you went down the list, there’s probably a good chance that at least one of those little thoughts gave you pause.

You see, that’s the odd thing about numbers. About 80 out of 42,000 may not seem like a big deal for some things, but others? Well now, that’s a whole different story.

Many, many years ago, when some folks with a lot of pretty sheets of paper on their walls paid me to go to school, one of the little tidbits I learned was this neat piece of psychology known as “The Gambler’s Fallacy.”

If you grab a normal coin and flip it fairly, it has a 50-50 chance of landing on either heads or tails. If you flip it nine times and it lands on heads all nine times, guess what the odds are that it will land on tails that tenth flip?

Right. 50-50. The gambler will tell you no way ... it’s got to land on tails. Casinos love gamblers, they make a lot of money off them.

So, what does 80 some odd El Campoans having this virus mean? The folks with the snazzy sheets of paper say it’s bad, real bad, and keep asking folks like me to tell you to wear a mask, wash your hands, social distance and stay home when you can. Your buddies or social media friends say it’s no biggie.

The coin’s in the air.

How are you going to bet?

 

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– Shannon Crabtree is editor & publisher of the El Campo Leader-News.

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