COVID has clearly been devastating. But our reaction has turned a bad pandemic into an unrivaled self-inflicted national disaster.
Three-hundred-fifty years ago, John Graunt attempted to give Londoners an accurate assessment of fatality rates of diseases in the community so people could understand their risk level. Until COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) fulfilled the same role.
Then the CDC abandoned tradition and sensibility and treated COVID differently than every other disease. For a death to be considered a COVID death, COVID no longer needed to be the immediate or underlying cause of death. Now, a death is considered a COVID death even if COVID was only a contributing condition.
For example, a certificate that lists dementia as the cause of death but doesn’t list a respiratory ailment is likely to be a case of dying with COVID, not from COVID. Likewise for accidents, heart attacks, strokes, and any other non-respiratory condition.
Singapore, for example, only counts deaths as COVID deaths if they are accompanied by pneumonia. If the United States followed this criterion, COVID deaths would total about 90,000 and be comparable to a very bad flu season.
To disentangle respiratory COVID deaths from other types of COVID deaths requires examining individual death records, which are difficult to obtain. Fortunately, in May, Florida released data on 1,489 COVID deaths. About two-thirds of those deaths that listed more than just COVID as a cause also listed a respiratory condition.
Applying this two-thirds estimate to the current official tally of 240,000 U.S. COVID deaths yields a very rough estimate of 160,000 deaths from COVID.
Remarkably, this number represents about half of the approximately 300,000 excess deaths the United States has experienced this year, according to the CDC’s latest estimate dated Oct. 3. The 300,000 number is determined by subtracting the 2,240,000 fatalities the CDC estimates we would expect to have seen from January to October if 2020 were a typical year from the 2,540,000 deaths we have actually suffered.
This begs the question: What is causing the remaining 140,000 excess deaths?
Although CDC records are far from comprehensive, they do provide some explanation: So far in 2020, the CDC data shows there have been about 32,000 excess Alzheimer’s deaths and 12,000 excess diabetes deaths.
The Alzheimer’s deaths are particularly heart-wrenching, as these represent people literally dying from loneliness and lack of human interaction. The excess diabetes deaths could be due to the interruption of normal health-care operations.
There are many other documented and postulated sources of excess deaths, including delayed emergency room visits due to fear of COVID resulting in postponed or skipped treatment for heart attacks, strokes, cancer, and other ailments. Deaths of despair, such as suicides and drug overdoses, have increased.
Violence has also increased significantly. Additionally, the CDC recently reported an unprecedented 26.5 percent surge in deaths for adults aged 25–44, a group for which COVID is no worse than the flu.
In addition, as the 13,000 medical expert authors and signers of the Great Barrington Declaration point out, the deaths and diseases the lockdowns are creating will continue for years. The excess deaths toll from the effects of lockdowns will continue to accrue even as COVID dissipates.
In total, for every COVID death, we could ultimately tally another death from our reaction to COVID. Why is this happening? Why have we treated COVID like no other disease in history?
Watching Democrats attempting to blame the epidemic on President Trump, one cannot escape the sense of political motivation. Joe Biden made such claims even though COVID had devastated countries all over the world. Recently, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) sounded like an anti-vaxxer, saying he is skeptical of a vaccine recommended by Trump.
This hasn’t even touched on the damage our reaction has done to jobs, the economy, and the education of millions of children and young adults. Moreover, missed health-care screenings and interruption of economic activity will have damaging effects for years to come.
This is all not to say that COVID is a hoax or it’s not that bad. COVID has clearly been devastating and, even at 160,000 deaths so far as adjusted above, it is twice as bad as the worst flu seasons in recent memory. But our reaction has turned a bad pandemic into an unrivaled self-inflicted, full-scale national disaster.
In the end, it won’t be COVID, but our reaction to it, that will go down as the most deadly and damaging event of 2020.