There’s No Shortage of Available Numbers

Maybe we need to investigate if innumeracy is a COVID-19 symptom.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve been amused by the various phases governments throughout the US have used for their re-opening plans. In Massachusetts, the whole thing is an overcomplicated mess, with steps within phases. Fortunately, by staying home as much as possible, I’m able to avoid the need to really understand our current status.

More recently, I found similar nonsense when it comes to vaccine waiting lists. My mother lives in New Jersey, and I wanted to get her in line for the COVID vaccine. After signing up, she wound up in “Phase 1C”, which amused me.


The rather difficult to read graphic above shows that Phase 1A is healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities, while Phase 1B is other essential workers. Phase 1C is adults over 65, and adults with various medical conditions, while Phase 2 is the general public. New Jersey has four distinct groupings, yet only two phases. It’s needless nonsense.

When it comes to receiving the vaccine for a deadly pandemic, being in Phase 1C sounds pretty good. But for anyone who stops to think about it, that’s obviously just Phase 3. Calling it “Phase 3” would make it more clear that it’s behind “Phase 1” and “Phase 2”, which I suppose some view as a downside. To me, avoiding insulting attempts at diversion is a good thing, as is being honest.

I’m pleased to note that while Massachusetts doesn’t yet have a waiting list, we do have just the type of straightforward system I’m suggesting.


I’m in Phase 3, which I much prefer to Phase 1C. That said, the “order of priority” could well turn into a source of unnecessary complication.

Somehow, however, it’s already even worse in California. Friend-of-the-site Chris D. was researching there on behalf of his own mother, and found this chart:


While California’s chart is the easiest to read, its contents are even more absurd. Imagine actually trying to explain this to someone:

“So, you’re in group 1C.”

“Oh, great, it sounds like I’ll get the vaccine soon.”


“Ah, I guess there are two groups ahead of me, right? I’m after 1A and 1B, so I’m really in the third group.”

“Close! Group 1C is actually the fourth group, behind 1A, 1B Tier One, and 1B Tier Two.”

There are, literally, an infinite number of whole numbers. Perhaps New Jersey and California could just call things what they are.