To gauge danger of COVID-19, look at the numbers. It’s serious.

COVID-19 - just how bad is it?

“Really bad” - that tells me nothing. I need a number. And, I need to understand what the number(s) mean.

Let's look at prevalence (the percentage of the population that is contagious) and growth (the ratio of new cases to active cases).

So how bad is it? Well, I'll tell you.

As of Dec. 12, in Windham County, based on the pattern of disease recoveries, there are estimated to be 96 residents with active COVID-19 cases. That means that at least 1 in every 439 Windham County residents has the disease today and is contagious.

More likely, it's 1 in 157 people, based on statistics that predict that the actual number infected is 2.8 times the reported cases.

On Nov. 12, 1 in 2,445 Windham County residents had an active case. On Oct. 13, 1 in 7,567 had an active case. That means 17 times more cases are now circulating in the population than they were two months ago.

For comparison sake, in Franklin County, Mass., 1 in 246 are estimated to be infected. In Cheshire County, N.H., 1 in 212 are actively infected.

The daily growth rate in Windham County over the past week has been 6.6 percent, lower than the average disease recovery rate of 7.2 percent, meaning that if we keep up our mask-wearing and social distancing, the disease will slowly dissipate.

It's serious. We were lucky that the virus has not reached our area as it has elsewhere. That time has passed.

We are now in a preventable danger situation. We have to step up, keeping the discipline of masks, distancing, and reducing contact. Our government (local, state, and federal) has to facilitate and mandate the behaviors that reduce the spread.

We should not be opening right now. Because of the high number of contacts, places like schools, churches, non-essential stores, and courts should not be open.

The restrictions and subsequent reopening should be numbers-driven - responsive, not political. Our town governments, our governors and legislatures, and our president and Congress should have both the information and the backbone to do what is needed to restore the ability of citizens to participate in public activities without health risk.

Transitions of restrictions should be simple and clear, prepared for in advance. We all should know that the numbers can dictate either relaxation or increased restrictions.

For store owners and others working face-to-face, here's the dilemma: the disease does not disappear by half-measures. There is no possible reopening if the disease numbers are increasing.

That is gambling - and the house wins.

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