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May 28, 2020

Evaluating a COVID Milestone

The U.S. has reached 100,000 deaths from coronavirus — or has it?

The U.S. reached a grim milestone Wednesday: 100,000 deaths attributed to COVID-19. Some are warning of a “second wave” later this year, though White House Task Force medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci says that is “not inevitable.” As for the statistics, the devil is in the details, and specifically the word “attributed.” We’ll come back to that.

“These 100,000 are not nameless numbers, nor are they mostly famous people,” reports The Washington Post. “They are, overwhelmingly, elderly — in some states, nearly two-thirds of the dead were 80 or older. They are disproportionately poor and black and Latino. Among the younger victims, many did work that allowed others to stay at home, out of the virus’s reach. For the most part, they have died alone, leaving parents and siblings and lovers and friends with final memories not of hugs and whispered devotion, but of miniature images on a computer screen, tinny voices on the phone, hands pressed against a window.” The individual stories are indeed heart-rending.

According to Reason, “Across the 39 states that report the location of COVID-19 deaths, 42 percent have occurred in nursing and residential care facilities. … In some states, the total is as high as 65%.” That’s despite those residents accounting for just 0.6% of the population, which leads Forbes’s Avid Roy to note that “the 99.4 percent of the country that doesn’t live in those places is roughly half as likely to die of the disease.”

Numerically, New York’s nursing homes have been especially hard hit thanks to Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo. Of the 100,000 deaths nationwide, 23,000 occurred in New York. And of those deaths, perhaps as many as 10,000 occurred in or originated from New York’s nursing homes.

To say this has been a tragic and bizarre episode in American history is an understatement.

But that brings us back to the statistics themselves. As our Arnold Ahlert noted a week ago, there are “lies, damned lies, and COVID-19 statistics.” Many Americans are justified in doubting that officials are accurately counting COVID deaths because there could be a big difference — especially in the elderly and infirm — between dying because of COVID and dying with COVID but perhaps primarily due to another cause.

A CDC directive in March stated, “COVID-19 should be reported on the death certificate for all decedents where the disease caused or is assumed to have caused or contributed to death” [bold in the original]. Katie Hutchinson, health statistics manager for Washington state’s Department of Health, confirmed that her state’s data “reflects anyone who died, that tested positive for COVID, irrespective of cause of death” [emphasis added].

On the other end, there are some number of people who have died at home but aren’t counted as COVID deaths because they were never tested. In a tragic irony, there has been loss of life from otherwise treatable illness because of hospital restrictions, as well as deaths of despair that wouldn’t have happened had the nation not totally shut down for over two months.

Of those lockdowns, even Fauci declared last Friday, “We can’t stay locked down for such a considerable period of time that you might do irreparable damage and have unintended consequences, including consequences for health.” He added, “I don’t want people to think that any of us feel that staying locked down for a prolonged period of time is the way to go.”

Those lockdowns were based on deeply flawed models and now untrustworthy statistics, and Mark Alexander argues there’s going to be hell to pay.

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