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How Many Coronavirus Deaths Will We Accept?

German Lopez of Vox offers a read-worthy essay on our failure as a nation to answer the core question that would define our end goal for the coronavirus pandemic and the actions we need to take individually and in public policy to reach that goal: How many deaths from coronavirus will we accept?

Are 30,000 to 40,000 deaths a year too many? That’s generally what the country sees with gun violence and car crashes — and American policymakers, at least, haven’t been driven to major actions on these fronts.

Are as many as 60,000 deaths a year too many? That’s what Americans have tolerated for the flu.

Are 90,000 deaths a year too many? That’s the death toll of the ongoing drug overdose crisis — and while policymakers have taken some steps to combat that, experts argue the actions so far have fallen short, and the issue doesn’t draw that much national attention.

Is the current death toll — of more than 1,500 a day, or equivalent to more than 500,000 deaths a year — too much? Many people would say, of course, it is. But in the middle of a delta variant surge, Americans may be revealing their preferences as restaurant reservations are now around the pre-pandemic normal — a sign the country is moving on. “The loudest voices on social media and in public are way more cautious than the average American,” Jha said [German Lopez, “America Needs to Decide How Much Covid-19 Risk It Will Tolerate,” Vox, 2021.09.07].

Our failure to address that core question may be found in the heckle-match that was Tuesday’s Rapid City school board meeting… but let’s not slip into both-sidesism: the usual crowd of right-wing extremists who come to cheer on their suicidally anti-community school board majority were finally met by concerned citizens appalled at their insurgent school board’s lack of concern for children’s welfare and the good of others. The anti-mask, anti-vax, anti-science, anti-journalism crowd think freedom is absolute and want to do absolutely nothing about coronavirus; the decent people who showed up to shout back at the absolute antis and express their disgust with the new school board want government to fulfill its proper role of protecting public health and do something to prevent the spread of coronavirus in school.

The radicals’ destructive absolutism is epitomized by Rep. Phil Jensen (R-33/Rapid City), who said at the meeting that we aren’t responsible for other people’s health—”We are all responsible for ourselves.” That’s the same sentiment that new Rapid City school board president and extremist Kate Thomas expressed earlier this summer when she denied the moral and statutory obligation of our schools to protect public health. That ignorant sentiment is wrong; the conscientious, community-oriented sentiment of the citizens calling for more preventative measures against coronavirus is right.

Neither Jensen and Thomas’s wrong side nor the counter-protestors’ right side  have offered a clear statement of the end goal they envision for coronavirus infection, hospitalization, and death numbers, but the extremists’ commitment to absolute freedom suggests any number of infections and deaths is acceptable, a position that contradicts the “pro-life” principles that Phil Jensen and others in his crowd espouse to win elections. They won’t say how many kids they are willing to kill today for their absolute freedom. These forked-tonguers justify their Noemish do-nothingism by sowing confusion about science when there should be none: as Lopez points out again, “Research has also found stricter restrictions reduce Covid-19 spread and death, and that masks work.” The proactive side doesn’t distract, dissemble, or contradict its own values: they recognize that we can and should do something to check the pandemic and prevent some level of human suffering and loss. They struggle, as do the public health experts Lopez interviews, to define an exact number of acceptable positive cases, but they know we can lower the cases by doing something more than chanting “Freedom!” and denying basic science.

Yes, we need to get clear as a community on the end goal of our coronavirus response. But extremists shouting for absolute freedom and zero public health intervention do not oblige us to argue for zero freedom and absolute public health intervention. Knuckleheads who try to shrug off all coronavirus hospitalization and death as “the natural order of things” and thus accept any level of harm do not oblige those of us interested in preserving society from their lazy and reckless absolutism by arguing for either an absolute elimination of harm or a specific, quantified level of reduced harm. Asked how many deaths from coronavirus we will accept, we can conscientiously say, “Well, we don’t know exactly how many we have to accept, but we want fewer than we have now and fewer than we’ll have if we do nothing.”


  1. Donald Pay 2021-09-09 09:12

    How many deaths is too many for the extremists? One, and it’s the “royal death.” Their own death is all they care about. They certainly don’t care about you and your children. They don’t care about staff or anyone in the community.

    You notice that nearly all the anti-science crowd begs for the vaccine AFTER they have been infected. They ain’t asking Donald Trump or Jesus Christ for the vaccine or a miracle cure. Oh, they might be praying to either, but they’re asking the medical personnel, who will take care of them at risk to their own lives. When it comes down to their death by covid, the extremists are suddenly confronted with reality. At that time and then only, they realize their extremism has taken them too far down the River Styx, and they want out of the canoe.

  2. Eve Fisher 2021-09-09 09:25

    Donald, you’re absolutely right. And a lot of them, at the end, can’t get out of the canoe. The graveyard is filling with the anti-vaxx crowd, and at some point, they may realize it before they end up on the ventilator.

  3. Porter Lansing 2021-09-09 10:58

    Between my desk and the foothills is a part of the second largest school district in Colorado. It’s squeaky white and sneaky white supremacist. I say sneaky because when people weren’t paying attention the exact same type of school board, as is dumping on Rapid, was elected. (Koch Brothers $$$) The same tactical assault on civil responsibility ensued. It ended in the recall of all the extremists and the return to calm that citizens pay taxes for. *read about it here –

  4. jerry 2021-09-09 11:55

    Deaths are the final score, but what about those who have been sickened with this virus? How much money will that cost them now and in the future for treatments? Maybe when they file for medical bankruptcy the light will shine. In the end, its all about the benjamins.

  5. Dicta 2021-09-09 12:42

    And how many were “fake,” Captain Sociopath?

  6. kurtz 2021-09-09 13:22

    “The institute was the brainchild of Trump’s longtime lobbyist and consultant, Roger Stone, and Trump himself was hands-on — not just paying the bills, but signing off on ad copy or radio scripts depicting the tribe as violent criminals and drug dealers. When Stone hired private investigators to dig up dirt on the Mohawks, Trump secretly paid the bills.” [LA Times]

    We all know Republican South Dakota Governor Kristi Lynn Arnold Noem (KLAN) is a racist so now she is exploiting ethnic cleansing to advance her national aspirations. Because of her toxic narcissism and desire to hoe in the cash by the boxful Noem would ban authors like Pulitzer Prize winner Louise Erdrich whose images of the Native American Genocide are burned into her work.

    During the height of the pandemic Trump-worshipping Republicans wanted to ditch masks and get kids back into schools. But most now even admit they want to end social studies and turn students into mindless wage slaves.

    Teachers’ wages in red states like South Dakota surf the bottom because Republicans are Balkanizing education amid a fight over critical race theory and in my home state academic freedom is under attack from a reactionary, Earth hating, self-dealing, authoritarian governor.

  7. Mark Anderson 2021-09-09 15:36

    Ditka, you have to feel sorry for Mr, Dale, he was all enrolled in Steve Bannon’s gladiator school and the Italian’s cancelled it. He would have gotten an excellent in falsehoods. All that smoked
    Marijuana has something to do with his lowering IQ, and he’s twice as likely to suffer a heart attack. You have to feel for the boy.

  8. Porter Lansing 2021-09-09 17:46

    FYI … German Lopez’ personal name is pronounced Air Mahn , as in the All Star Rockies pitcher, German Marquez. Just sayin’.

  9. John Dale 2021-09-09 21:17

    Mark Anderson – would you write my name again?

    Go on.

    Write my name.

  10. jerry 2021-09-09 21:34

    Looks like President Biden has had enough denial (not a river in Egypt).
    President Biden announced sweeping new coronavirus vaccine mandates Thursday designed to affect tens of millions of Americans, ordering all businesses with more than 100 employees to require their workers to be immunized or face weekly testing.

    Biden also said that he would require most health-care facilities that accept Medicare or Medicaid funding to vaccinate their employees, which the White House believes will cover 50,000 locations.

    And the president signed an executive order compelling all federal employees to get vaccinated — without an option for those who prefer to be regularly tested instead — in an effort to create a model he hopes state governments will embrace. He is also ordering all staffers in Head Start programs, along with Defense Department and federally operated schools for Native Americans, to be vaccinated.” Washington Post 9.9.21

    Finally, Biden puts the hammer down.

  11. grudznick 2021-09-09 21:34

    Mr. Dale, do you mean “write” or “type?”

    Regardless, you seem to have cowed Mr. Anderson into some sort of submission.

  12. jerry 2021-09-09 22:02

    Right, I think

  13. M 2021-09-10 05:16

    Cory, this John Dale is a thorn in the side of democracy. People like him don’t deserve a voice any more. Shut this idiot up.

  14. John 2021-09-10 06:09

    Biden, closing the barn door after the pestilence is out. But at least finally.

    How many deaths is enough? 2996.
    That was the number of individual tragedies from 9/11. It was the equivalent of a Civil War regiment. It was the equivalent of one days casualties in the Civil War. Those 2996 tragic individual deaths were not a national catastrophe – the nation made those deaths a national catastrophe by over-reacting to those deaths. Meanwhile the nation, until Biden’s welcome edict, continues to under-whelm the 600,000++ deaths from this preventable virus.

    It’s beyond me how and why the Public Health Officers of Pennington, Meade, and Lawrence FAIL doing their statutory jobs to declare an emergency, mandate masks and social distancing. Their inaction while collecting a public pay check highlights our broken government and the unwillingness for many government workers to do their jobs.

  15. Dicta 2021-09-10 06:58

    So we’ve moved on to the “There is no COVID-19” phase of the conspiracy. I need to figure out what fiberglassed my uncle’s lungs and killed him now, I guess.

    Now the disinformation is getting personal, Cory.

  16. Dana P 2021-09-10 07:51

    But Mr Dale, I could have sworn you told all of us that you have already had Covid awhile back. How could you have had a non-existent virus? Shaking my head.

    Back on the topic of Cory’s blog…..

    We are our brother’s keeper, says the Christian crowd. But man, they sure do carve out alot of exceptions, don’t they? Yeah, how many deaths are acceptable and when is the line drawn? The 2,977 people killed/6000 people injured on Sept 11th apparently were too many as now we have to go through many precautions before we board an airplane. Safeguards put in place to reduce the chances we are going to perish in another terrorist attack while traveling by air. Good common sense protections.

    How many deaths are acceptable? Good questions to ask our elected leaders who took an oath to protect us. That’s for sure.

  17. John 2021-09-10 08:02


    Oh boy, the luddite, anti-science, anti-vaxers may be on to something . . . an emerging government implant program . . . aiming to end pandemics forever.
    This is about Rube Goldberg as the Dick Tracy watch, Facebook Raybans, and the waste testing & reporting toilet.

    Researchers resurrected the Spanish Flu virus – infected animals with the Spanish Flu, then cured it.

    Recall when 1271 sailors on the carrier Roosevelt had COVID? Implanted health monitoring is a combat multiplier.
    Nothing makes a military unit combat ineffective faster than disease or sickness.
    Bring on the implants with their transmitter.

  18. John Dale 2021-09-10 08:25

    Could one of you call me please?

    I got a box of paddles that were sent to the wrong address and I don’t render terroristic spankings.

    Thank you sir, may I have another!

    “government implant program” – it isn’t emerging. It isn’t government.

    Bravo uniform lima lima Sierra hotel india tango.

    How dumb do you think we are?

    I mean, seriously .. I had what you might call low IQ folks laying out the plan to me in 1989.

    That’s a lot of time to prepare.

    Globalists just walked into a kill zone.

    Thing is .. Christians don’t want to go to hell, so they may not pull the trigger.

    But they will put you in a box together until death.

    What a terrible plan this was.

    We could have had something beautiful together.

    Now it gets ugly.



  19. John Dale 2021-09-10 08:28

    Wait till cannabis advocates find out what’s been done.

  20. Dicta 2021-09-10 08:28

    Ok, we’re just gonna let him run wild as a tactic. Cool. Looks like I am done with this site too. Good luck, everyone.

  21. kurtz 2021-09-10 08:33

    Every branch of Monument Health is turning away patients: from Sundance, Wyoming to that southern Hills town named for a war criminal to Scottsbluff, Nebraska so the good news is that the Trump Virus is killing mostly Republicans.

  22. kurtz 2021-09-10 08:42

    South Dakota is most lucrative state to practice medicine. Sanford, Avera and Rapid City Regional now Monument Health enjoy a virtual triopoly so why isn’t there a commission like SDPUC to regulate medical care costs?

  23. mike from iowa 2021-09-10 08:58

    so why isn’t there a commission like SDPUC to regulate medical care costs?

    That would entail oversight, which magats are as opposed to as they are vaccines, masks and voting for Dems.

  24. mike from iowa 2021-09-10 09:11

    Moderna contamination was stainless steel particles, Rabbit Hole Refugee.

  25. Mark Anderson 2021-09-10 09:11

    Well Grudz, I’m certainly not cowed by lying Mr. Dale. I just used Mary Jane against him, its easy to do, there’s so many more reasonable articles against dope then there are against the vaccine. Against the vaccine its just all the alt right boys bull and Mr. Dale feeds on all those distorted sites. It’s just so easy to get people’s goat. One time when I was going to see my wife at Planned Parenthood, a protester said she would pray for me and I quickly said back God doesn’t hear your prayers. What she replied certainly wasn’t Christian and would get me booted off this site.

  26. cibvet 2021-09-10 09:11

    This is the new tactic of the conservative playbook. Find a constructive blog, fill it with lies and general bulls**t until they get removed from the site. Then they whine and cry horse turd size tears until the pub legislatures pass a law declaring all misinformation is protected by the first amendment thus trying to destroy all constructive intercourse by responsible people.

  27. M 2021-09-10 09:13

    John Dale is on more than pot.

  28. jerry 2021-09-10 09:40

    A paid troll that spends time on this blog spreading lies regarding the covid vaccine, John Dale, a covid denier that is vaccinated.

  29. kurtz 2021-09-10 10:19

    Trump denied the existence of COVID to kill people of color especially in New York where the Mohawks had won casino court cases against him. He slow-walked resources to reservations hoping for maximum exposure. This was no accident, it was attempted genocide.

  30. Mark Anderson 2021-09-10 11:11

    You know Kurtz it is remarkable that liberals are trying to save the trumpies, maybe there is a higher being after all. Florida has had well over a million more cases than New York and has 7,000 less deaths but we are catching up fast on that count, and New York was hit early before anyone knew the best treatment. The Republican are being hit hard now just because they refuse the vaccines, is suicide now legal?

  31. kurtz 2021-09-10 11:24

    Trump tried to partner with the Seminole Nation on a casino venture and they laughed at him.

  32. Bonnie B Fairbank 2021-09-10 18:53

    Tommorow is the 20th “anniverseraryity” of the 9-11 terrorist attacks by our enduring bestest friends, the Saudis. The Bushies and the Cheneys made billions of dollars from them, and still do. Approximately 3000 humans died from their greed, and we’ll all have vicarious grief for the victims.

    Meanwhile, 3000 people die every two days from Covid-19 in this hell-hole of a country, yet, somehow, Biden is a dictator, mandating vaccinations for people who are too stupid to breathe.

  33. Lottie 2021-09-11 22:38

    What i dont understand is KN says she doesnt want vaccine mandates or masks but people should have their “Freedom”….but freedom to do what? What about all the people who want to live? Doesn’t anyone want to know how All the citizens feel? Not just the KN followers. Someone should Speak Out. The covid disbelievers are filling up hospitals.

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