Every death from the novel coronavirus is its own particular tragedy. So it’s easy to get overwhelmed as the number of confirmed infections in the United States climbs to 1.2 million and the death toll pushes past 70,000 — with some states having not yet reached their peak.

But there is another story here, and it is one of survival. The vast majority of the people who contract the coronavirus recover. Officially, more than 133,000 Americans are listed as having recovered from COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. It is a figure that is hard to pin down because recovery rates and the definition of recovery vary widely.

Dr. Jennifer Green, Cumberland County’s health director, was asked at a town hall about the number of people who had recovered. She said it was a tough question to answer.

“Do we define recovery as you are no longer hospitalized but you might still have symptoms? Do we define recovery as people who are no longer in isolation or quarantine? Do we define recovery as people who got hospitalized but are now in some long-term care because of their respiratory illnesses?

“That’s a hard number to get a consistent definition across counties, across the country. We are struggling to figure out how to define that across the state.”

Green said her department would in the meantime wait for additional guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the N.C. Department of Health and Human 金殿国际棋牌-首页.

“Our goal,” she said, “is always to provide data that is consistent and accurate.”

Even when emerging data helps us pin down the number of recoveries, we want to make clear that it will in no way diminish the memories of those whose lives the coronavirus took. Rather this information helps round out the story of the worst pandemic the country has seen for some time.

We have known for some time that most people infected with the coronavirus experience mild to moderate symptoms. Some people experience none at all and, absent a blood test that shows antibodies were produced to fight the virus, will never know they had it.

This is important because it is one of a few indicators that a wide number of Americans have had the coronavirus but will never show up on any list of confirmed cases. A study of antibodies out of California showed that between 2.5 and 4.2 percent of the residents of Santa Clara County, where a big outbreak occurred, were carrying coronavirus antibodies. Researchers concluded that this means — though there were at the time 1,000 confirmed cases — as many as between 48,000 and 81,000 county residents may have actually been infected.

Another difficulty in figuring out how many people have or have had COVID-19 is related to the United States’ relatively slow pace of rolling out mass testing. We are doing better but need to do much more.

Studying antibodies can help scientists discover more treatments for the active form of COVID-19. So, in this way mass testing is not only important to safely reopen states currently under lockdown but can also help battle this disease.

Meanwhile, the recovery part of the coronavirus story passed its own milestone recently: More than 1 million people worldwide have been listed as recovered.

Today’s editorial is from The Fayetteville Observer. The views expressed are not necessarily those of this newspaper.

Contact Bobby Burns at baburns@reflector.com and 329.9572.