Excessive Deaths Not COVID-19 Related
As we continue our nationwide lockdowns…mask mandates…and prayers of a vaccine as the "only way to get us out of this pandemic" in the mainstream media, something very important is missed.
The absolute tremendous toll that this pandemic has caused on loss of life goes well beyond COVID-19 coded deaths.
An important statistic to look at is not just how many COVID-19 + flu + pneumonia deaths we have, but how many excessive deaths we have. This is an indication of how many people died this year beyond what we would have expected to see. This number is very important because people die every year of all sorts of causes, including pneumonia, tuberculosis and influenza, although not normally at the current levels we are seeing. Just a few years ago, in 2017 lower respiratory deaths including influenza and pneumonia totaled 169,000. So it is not out of the realm of possibilities to see the type of death we have now.
However, a paper published in early october in JAMA found that deaths increased by 20 percent over the expected number of excess deaths for this time period. This indicates that yes, this pandemic is causing a tremendous toll on loss of life in our country.
What is specific about this number though is that only 2/3 of all excess deaths can be attributed to the COVID-19 disease itself.
In many cases, patients delayed seeking medical care, either out of fear of contracting the virus or because medical care was not available during the lockdown periods this summer.
Substance abuse disorders and psychological stress may also be playing a role in excess deaths, as we have seen suicide deaths skyrocket, especially in the young and otherwise healthy as well as in certain minorities.
The author of the JAMA article, Dr. Steve Woolf from Virginia Commonwealth University has said it best.
"In many cases, the danger of not getting care is much greater than the risk of exposure to the virus."
At the end of the day, this year will go down as a tragedy. However, I believe strongly that a portion of this tragedy could be avoided if we modified our lock-down procedures, and took a more common sense approach to handling this virus.
An approach with less fear, more empowerment of our body's natural immune fighting abilities. An approach that most importantly embraces the concept of increasing human touch and in-person communication, recognizing that benefit of supporting this need may far out way the risk of the COVID-19 virus against most of us itself.