Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

We Need a Lockdown Death Meter Beside the COVID-19 Death Meter

The Number of Cases in LA County is Up a Lot. But So Are the Number of Tests Performed

Ever since the COVID-19 disease began spreading through the world, countries and localities have been publicizing the number of cases and deaths from COVID-19. In Los Angeles County, this metric is updated daily. As I write this, with a click to the county website, I can discover there have been a total of 47,822 cases of COVID-19 in Los Angeles and purportedly 2,143 deaths due to the virus.

These numbers are presumably given in order to inform the public, but like many statistics, the way they are presented also serves to mislead. Deaths occur every day in Los Angeles - and the world - from a variety of causes. In order to properly comprehend the danger from COVID-19, deaths from this one cause need to be presented together with daily deaths from other causes.

Certainly, the most significant other cause of death the public should be given to consider are the deaths caused by the lockdown. Only when these numbers are placed side by side can citizens determine if actions taken by their elected (and often unelected) leaders to shut down businesses and the economy are truly in the public's best interest.

According to an article in The Hill, the number of deaths caused by the current economic shutdown far exceed those caused by COVID-19. Scott W. Atlas, a physician and senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, Ralph L Keeney, professor in engineering at Duke University the University of Southern California, and Alexander Lipton, a dean's fellow at the Jerusalem Business School of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, wrote a piece on Monday outlining these deaths.

Using National Institutes of Health Public Access publications, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Bureau of Labor Statistics data, and actuarial tables, the authors found that "statistically, every $10 to $24 million lost in U.S. incomes results in one additional death." Given the estimated lost economic output in the U.S. is $1.1 trillion per month and averaging the mortal lost income rate at $17 million, the authors calculate that every month 65,000 lives are lost in this country merely due to the lost income from the economic shutdown.

Deaths also occur due to delayed, denied, or missed health care. Typically, 150,000 new cancer cases are discovered very month in the U.S. But two-thirds to three-fourths of cancer screenings have been cancelled due to hospital and medical center shutdowns and public fear. Only 15 percent of typical living-donor transplants have taken place. More than half of childhood vaccinations have been missed, "a massive future health disaster," as the authors put it. These delays or denials of medical treatment have resulted in 8,000 deaths per month during the shutdown.

Using the calculations from The Hill article, there are at least 73,000 deaths per month from the economic shutdown. The nation has been shut down for two months plus. This means 146,000-plus people in the U.S. have died due to the lockdown.

The virus itself is publicized to have caused 100,259 deaths as of this writing.

Do the math.

Some pundits and publications propose using "number of typical deaths over average" to calculate the number of deaths caused by the novel coronavirus. This would be lead to a completely false statistic. There is no validity to assuming that any death occurring over the typical number should be attributed to COVID-19. Deaths over the typical rate are also occurring due to denied health care, economic hardship, suicide, drug use, and depression. (And no, suicide, depression, and even drug use are not "just a matter of choice.")

As the economic consequences of state-mandated unemployment and business failures continue, the deaths caused by them will continue. These deaths are a matter of choice - the choice of our elected leaders. They should be counted right beside the COVID-19 death meters.

The public has a right to know.


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