In mathematics education, there is general agreement regarding the significance of mathematical literacy (also quantitative literacy or numeracy) for informed citizenship, which often requires evaluating the use of numbers in public policy discourse. We hold that such an evaluation must accommodate the necessarily fragile relation between the information that numbers are taken to carry and the policy decisions they are meant to support. In doing so, attention needs to be paid to differences in how that relation is formed. With this in mind, we investigated a public discourse that heavily relied on numbers in the context of introducing, maintaining, and easing the rules and regulations directed to contain the spread of the virus SARS-CoV-2 during the first epidemic wave of COVID-19 in Germany with its peak in early April 2020. We used a public-service broadcasting outlet as data. Our theoretical stance is affiliated with post-structuralist discourse theory. As an outcome, we identified four major related strategies of using numbers, which we named rationalisation, contrast, association and recharging. In our view explicit attention to these strategies as well as identifying new ones can aid the task of furthering critical mathematical literacy.