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Your brain can’t handle the number of COVID-19 deaths

Researchers said humans naturally can’t understand the large numbers of the virus’ death toll.

SHARE Your brain can’t handle the number of COVID-19 deaths
In this July 14, 2020, file photo, people wait in line for coronavirus testing at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

In this July 14, 2020, file photo, people wait in line for coronavirus testing at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

Mark J. Terrill, Associated Press

More than 200,000 people have now died from the novel coronavirus, The New York Times reports.

The United States has more deaths than any other country. Cases continue to climb in the U.S. and around the world, suggesting a bleak fall could be ahead.

In March, experts estimated fewer than 500 people would die. That number jumped to 60,000, then 75,000, then 80,000 and then 100,000. Now, we’re at almost double that number.

  • “If you think about it like that, assuming there are 138 seats in a classic 737, that would mean eight planes have crashed on U.S. soil every day.” Can you even imagine that?” David Kessler, Los Angeles-based grief specialist, told National Geographic.

But here’s the thing — you might not understand that number. According to National Geographic, humans aren’t exactly wired to handle such big numbers:

  • “Ultimately, our biology is working against us. Researchers say our brains aren’t wired to make sense of big numbers. We’re also trying to digest coronavirus death tolls amid a sea of other worries, including economic uncertainty, civil unrest, wildfires and hurricanes, geopolitical strife, election tensions, and unprecedented shifts in how we work, shop, socialize and educate our children.”
  • People don’t take time to consider the toll because it’s so high and there are so many other issues going on all at once.

Numbness, experts said, can’t lead to a lack of action.

  • “When I visited the death camps at Auschwitz, I saw the shoes and glasses of the people who died, and it made me numb. But when I left, I said to my numbness, What can I do to prevent this?” says Kessler. “Numbness should not let us off the hook.”