You have no doubt heard it said that even one death is a death too many. I agree, especially when it comes to COVID-19. Having watched my old friend and colleague Chris McCarthy struggle to stay alive for much of the last seven months, it doesn't take much to convince me that this virus and all of its variants ought to be taken seriously.

But let's keep things in perspective.

All across the country, we are going COVID cuckoo. People's livelihoods are in jeopardy for refusing to receive a COVID vaccine. Seriously? Thousands of healthcare workers, state police troopers, and others just here in Massachusetts alone face a decision to be vaccinated or be fired. Really? Just who is going to replace all of these people if they are let go? Has anyone thought about that?

We continue to hear about the Delta variant and how it is ravaging society as we know it. Even those who are vaccinated are getting Delta. Nobody is safe. The so-called "breakthrough" cases are alarming – unless, of course, you look at the numbers. And when you do look at the numbers, you begin to wonder what is going on here.

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According to the Boston Herald, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health reports there were 36,723 breakthrough cases confirmed in Massachusetts as of last week. That isn't many, considering there have been more than 4.6 million people vaccinated to date.

Of the 36,723 breakthrough cases, there have been 254 deaths. That's 0.006 percent of the fully vaccinated population. The average age of a breakthrough death is 82.3 years. Seventy-one percent of all breakthrough deaths were people with pre-existing health conditions.

Only 1,156 breakthrough cases in Massachusetts have resulted in hospitalizations. That's 0.03 percent, and 59 percent of them had pre-existing conditions.

Health experts say the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions are most vulnerable and are more likely to become a breakthrough case. They urge anyone in those categories to vaccinate and get a booster shot.

COVID is serious business, but let's keep calm, look at the numbers and understand that this is not the apocalypse. Oh, and turn off the cable network news.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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