The Casualties of Lockdown
Updated: May 13, 2020
The Cost of COVID-19
The fear surrounding the Coronavirus has been disproportionate to its actual "physical" effect on our country. The media quickly scrambled to label this virus a "pandemic," with which it has to be one of the mildest "pandemics" on record. "Pandemics," at least in my mind, are usually more lethal than about one person for every 200 people they infect, especially without a finite cure or treatment yet. Death rates seem to vary but even recent antibody tests, like those done at the University of Southern California and Stanford, estimate that as little 0.2% of those infected with the novel coronavirus actually die.
Regardless of what your opinion is, here are the reported death numbers for our country and our state as of May 10th.
Number of U.S. Deaths - 80,574 of 328.2 Million people
Number of Pennsylvania Deaths - 3,416 of 12.8 Million people
These numbers are, of course, higher than what any of us would want, and any fatality for that matter at the hands of a virus is a tragedy. The trouble, however, is that from the beginning of this virus outbreak the numbers have rightfully garnered scrutiny.
Incoherent and dishonest reporting - The running tally of COVID deaths even in our own Keystone state has drawn ire from many, including county coroners. Pennsylvania was forced to adjust its death toll recently after several county coroners called into question the legitimacy of some reported deaths. Then there was the sudden addition of nearly 3,800 deaths in New York in mid-April, victims who were "presumed to have died of the disease but who hadn't tested positive for the virus." Then, of course, there is the data from the CDC that shows those dying of COVID-19 alone, as opposed to dying with COVID AND other illnesses like Pneumonia, as being markedly less than the number being floated. These factors and others could support the possibility that the COVID-19 death toll, which is frequently displayed as if it were a sports box score by the main stream media, is inflated.
The money problem - A graver concern than even the prospect of faulty reporting is the fact that money is involved in the treatment and categorization of COVID patients. Hearty government reimbursements are being doled out to hospitals that provide a bed for medicare patients or those who are unisured who are categorized as having COVID (about $13,000 per patient) and even more for those patients put on ventilators (about $39,000 per patient). For many hospitals that are struggling financially right now to stay afloat, this is a troubling temptation and an invitation to skew numbers.
Older people with preexisting conditions have been hit the hardest - We've covered the unfortunate death tally of COVID and a few reasons why the tally may not be truly representative of actual COVID deaths. But who, exactly, does this virus affect the most? The answer, simply, is those who A. are advanced in years, and B. those who already have serious health problems.
Here are statistics from the PA Department of Health, as of May 6th, that help highlight this fact.
- 79 - Average age of those who have died (to put that into perspective, the average life expectancy of Americans in the year 2019 was... 78.6)
- 2,108 out of 3,106 who have died lived in nursing homes or similar personal care facilities - that's 68% of the state's deaths
Of the total death toll of 3,106 in PA
- 12% had FOUR serious preexisting conditions
- 23% had THREE
- 27% had TWO
- 23% had ONE
- 11% had ZERO
- 61% had hypertension
- 54% had heart disease
- 37% had diabetes
- 30% had chronic pulmonary disease
COVID-19's Collateral Damage - Not only does this virus make those sick who get it, or even claim the lives of some battling it, it invites a lot of other problems as well.
Other deaths and ailments - We heard recently from a local politician appealing to the Governor to relax restrictions, that York county has seen a 300% jump in opioid overdose deaths in the last several months. This matches a recent projection made by the National Bureau of Economic Research, who projected that for every one percent hike in unemployment, a 3.3% spike in drug-overdose deaths and a 0.99% rise in suicides would likely follow. The U.S. unemployment rate, on account of the COVID crisis, has skyrocketed from 3.5% to about 15% in the space of four months. According to a recent Washington Post article, a federal emergency hotline for people dealing with emotional distress saw a 1,000% increase in calls compared to last April. It must be considered with all seriousness the collateral damage a months-long lockdown can produce. [see the graph below, from Ionosphere Capital, which points out the projected deaths from unemployment in the year 2020]
What it costs us economically - Other than personal finances, our savings and investments in many cases, and for some of us our jobs, this national shutdown has had a steep price tag. Naturally, stimulus checks and interest free bailout loans are not free or without consequence. National debt and personal debt are on the rise. It's estimated that at least 1/4 of those who had credit card debt heading into this crisis have added to that debt. As far as small businesses, a poll from about five weeks ago showed that one in four businesses had already shut down (hopefully temporarily), and 43% said they had no longer than six months before they'd be forced to shut down permanently.
Ionosphere Capital recently indexed the potential cost per COVID life saved, based on money spent on mitigation policies, and money lost from a six-month hard lockdown. They found that it would cost us roughly $93M per person, while theoretically costing us lives due to suicide or overdose.
Then, of course, there is the potential casualties in the form of marriages, verbal and physical spousal abuse or child abuse, and other forms of abuse that this crisis has brought on. China, who by most accounts met this virus first, has already begun facing a spike in divorce filings. In America lawyers anticipate much of the same. The list really could go on and on if we dig deep enough.
The major question in all of this has been and still seems to be: is the fearful, overreaching reaction to what we thought this would become worth the mounting casualties? I think no.
- JF D'Orsie - Communications Director