One of the great questions that the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis has brought to the fore is: just how deadly is the disease? With over 55,000 deaths, the US leads the world in the number of coronavirus deaths. That number of deaths in such a short period of time certainly makes it appear that COVID-19 is an uncommonly deadly illness. But like with most statistics, you have to dig behind the numbers to get at the truth. So is COVID-19 really as deadly as many people fear, or are governments merely mishandling the crisis?
Everything Is Coronavirus
One curious aspect of coronavirus deaths is how some countries appear to be absolutely beset by deaths, while others are relatively unscathed. Take, for instance, France and Germany, neighbors who have similar numbers of cases (162,000 vs. 160,000). Yet France has nearly 23,000 deaths from coronavirus, while Germany has about 6,000.
Then look at Belgium and the Netherlands, with 47,000 and 38,000 cases respectively. They have 7,200 and 4,500 deaths respectively, numbers that, adjusted for population, would mean Germany should have 52,000 or 21,000 deaths respectively. So why aren’t Germans dying from coronavirus at high rates, while French, Dutch, and Belgians are?
The reality is that coronavirus numbers have to be taken with a grain of salt. Every death today is viewed through a coronavirus framework. Anyone who dies and who has also been exposed to coronavirus can be labeled a coronavirus death. Anyone who has symptoms of coronavirus and dies, even without a positive coronavirus test, can be labeled a coronavirus death. As the number of “coronavirus” deaths is increasing, the number of flu and other deaths is decreasing. That’s not due to the absence of other diseases, it’s just due to changes in categorization of deaths.
It’s just like the flu, where we don’t know how many people have the flu each year, nor how many die from influenza. Most cases aren’t ever tested, they’re just assumed to be flu due to symptoms. And we don’t actually count cases nationwide, we just take the numbers from a “statistically significant” sample of the population and project those over the whole country.
Shortages of Workers
Another possible reason for the surge in deaths is the shortage of nurses and doctors in some hospitals. So much was made of the deadliness of COVID-19 that many hospitals, particularly in large, urban areas, saw hospital staff cashing in their sick leave to make sure they wouldn’t be around when the first coronavirus patients came in. That’s why there was supposedly a shortage of qualified medical staff. Hospitals weren’t being overwhelmed because they had a huge number of patients, they were overwhelmed because their staff all essentially called in sick.
Hospital Mismanagement and Hygiene
Then there’s the problem of hospital mismanagement and hygiene. There are plenty of anecdotal reports of replacement nurses filling in at hospitals in New York and being appalled at the level of treatment being received by most patients. Looking at coronavirus deaths state by state, it’s clear that New York and New Jersey are leading the nation, with about 40% of deaths in those two states. In fact, New York’s number of deaths is 10 times that of California’s.
It’s shouldn’t be surprising that many would question whether the hospital system has anything to do with the disparity in deaths between New York and other states, just as they question that with regard to Italy and France versus Germany. If New York’s hospitals are in poor shape and ill-equipped to give proper care, then it shouldn’t be surprising that more people are dying there than in other states whose hospitals are in better shape.
One of the things we know about coronavirus is that it’s particularly easy to spread within retirement homes and other assisted living facilities. After all, the first known outbreak in the US occurred in a nursing home. So you would think that governments would do everything they could to protect nursing home residents, right? Wrong.
New York issued a directive on March 25 to nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, etc. stating “No resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to the NH [nursing home] solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19.” So in other words, nursing homes in New York were forced to accept coronavirus patients, regardless of the threat that posed to other residents. This was well after lockdowns were in place, and well after it was known how dangerous COVID-19 was to elderly patients with compromised immune systems. But New York essentially forced nursing homes to open themselves up to this illness.
With a boneheaded decision like that, it’s no wonder that New York is seeing a huge amount of cases and deaths. But it’s a lot easier for the left and the media to blame President Trump than it is to blame Gov. Cuomo and those actually responsible for running the state. In fact, of the top 10 states in terms of COVID-19 deaths, the top nine are all run by Democratic governors, which would indicate that Democratic-controlled states are at most risk of coronavirus deaths, possibly due to structural issues caused by Democratic mismanagement.
This is the problem with COVID-19, that no one wants to dig behind the numbers to see what is actually causing them. And unless people do that digging to find the truth, they’re not going to know enough to put pressure on their politicians to end these useless and damaging lockdowns.