The more we understand about COVID-19, the more we begin to understand the business of hype. Just calm down and take a deep breath.

I do not talk about COVID case numbers or the death count on my radio program. I did at the beginning when nobody really knew what else to say about it. Hell, the cable network news stations even ran a Jerry Lewis MDA telethon-style tote board on the screen that constantly updated cases and deaths worldwide. All it lacked was a sponsor. Or did I miss something?

The reason I don't talk about the number of cases or the number of deaths is that it would be dishonest to do so. We collect a lot of data, but nobody seems to know for sure what it all means.

The Commonwealth says there has been an uptick in COVID cases. But does that mean that there is more disease, or is it because as more people are being tested, there are more positive test results? It helps to know that. They can't tell us with certainty.

Let's take a look at the City of New Bedford. Health Department Director Damon Chaplin told me there has been an uptick in cases of COVID-19. Hospitalizations are up slightly. St. Luke's is at about 70 percent capacity. Hospitals are always busier this time of year. Is the increase exclusively COVID-related? We don't know. Deaths, while up slightly, are still reportedly almost exclusively among the aged with pre-existing conditions.

New Bedford has had 181 "COVID-related" deaths as of Wednesday. Again, most of those folks were octagenarians and had pre-existing conditions. Looking at it objectively, 181 out of 100,000 people is a fairly small percentage.

Chaplin told me we don't know for certain how many of those deaths were directly attributable to COVID and how many were from some other cause but are listed as COVID-related deaths. He said they hope to figure it out when the dust settles and at that time may be able to adjust the number of actual COVID deaths downward.

We know that the use of masks, social distancing, and good hygiene have combined to keep the number of COVID-related deaths much lower than the so-called experts anticipated earlier on in the crisis.

We also know that the surge we expected has arrived. We are managing well with what we have learned since March and need to stay the course using common sense as our guide until this nightmare is finally over.

Hype makes political careers and sells newspapers and cable TV ads. Common sense saves lives.

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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