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Math and science were never my strong suits. I did not really master basic math concepts until I took a course in new math for elementary school teachers to fulfill a core requirement for my undergraduate degree.

I discovered much later in life that I have a strong memory for visuals and feelings. This gift may be why I did OK in high school geometry and ended up with a career in social work.

I struggled to learn the mechanics of ratios during my apprenticeship with a master photographer after I retired from working for the state. The workings of simple film cameras and the darkroom only became part of my motor memory with years of practice.

Right now I am reeling from both the math and my feelings related to the prognosis for COVID-19 in our state.

The Gazette-Mail has reported that over 1,700 deaths are projected here by the end of the year if we do not change our ways.

In a recent press conference, our governor went into great detail about how the numbers of our deaths now are so much lower than our neighboring states. He used these numbers as justification for staying the course.

At the same time, he concedes that we have the highest population in the country of people who are at risk and will have additional suffering and deaths. He states that we must continue to put these people at risk and he is OK with doing that instead of shutting more things down.

Governor, just how stupid do you think we are?

Even as a young child I knew that adults got bigger helpings at dinner than little kids like me. Larger size meant more food. That is about as basic as it gets in terms of the math.

I want to know the rate of deaths based on population, not on the raw numbers. All of these states have a larger population than we do. The ratio is the only metric that counts here.

I have not done or seen the math, but I am guessing that we do not fare as well.

It is an insult to all of us to act as if these raw numbers mean something for our decisions related to protecting our people. They do not.

Even as I write this I can feel the ache in the pit of my stomach at the thought of these preventable deaths that we are facing. These are the lives of my peers, with the tragic effects of their loss on their families and friends and on our communities.

I cannot help but wonder if their lives are being sacrificed just to get us through an election where those in power are single-minded in their grasp to hold on.

There is an old concept in social work, and also in coaching, that is known as tough love. Tough love means embracing someone with love while doing whatever it takes to protect them, even if it goes against their wishes.

Our state now, more than ever, needs leaders who can provide tough love. We cannot wait for an election or inauguration to change our ways. Things have to change now.

The Harvard map is about more than decisions related to schools, as others have pointed out. It is about closing other things down to prevent community spread of COVID-19.

The economy is fixable. We can take extra steps to help and support people who suffer from the loss of relationships and routines.

We cannot recover lost lives.

Nor can we take back the devastating physical effects of COVID-19 on some of those who are able to survive.

The only way to change the trajectory of this pandemic is to follow the science.

My parents used to have a book called “How To Lie with Statistics.” Holding a press conference three times a week where numbers are announced does not make them right.

We have got to find a way to stand up to this madness. Vote, yes, as early and as safely as possible.

Wear a mask, wash your hands, and keep a distance. Reduce the risks if you have to go out.

These actions can go a long way to help, but they are not enough.

We have to get real about what is happening here in our state. We are sacrificing the lives of our elderly and most vulnerable citizens, including minorities and essential workers, in order to placate the politics of a few.

This is not OK. Governor, I implore you to see the light and be true to the Christian beliefs you describe in time to turn this pandemic here around.

Just one more thing here, also related to numbers. The governor reports the amount of federal COVID-19 relief funds that are spent, but not the balance. I’ve read that it could still be up to $1 billion and that the state may need to return some or all of it to the feds if it isn’t used by the end of the year.

Even we only have half or less of that amount, these funds could go a long way toward helping individuals and businesses and support our economy, even if we have to close down more. Many of our citizens still need help with food, housing, utilities, health care, broadband, child care, payroll and more. The governor could use a portion of these funds for the proposal to help our state’s most vulnerable communities.

Gov. Justice has chosen to assume complete control over the major decisions related to the pandemic. Only he can use that power to stop the tragedy that continues to unfold in our state.

Betty Rivard, of Charleston, is a retired social worker and planner for the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.