Help – The jury is still out
The mainstream media seems convinced that the lockdowns helped to stop the spread of SARS-CoV-2, reduced hospitalizations, and limited the death toll from COVID-19. The below graph calls that assumption into question as it show the UK and Peru, both strongly locked down, with the roughly the same death curve as Sweden and Brazil, both famous for their refusal to lockdown.
Of course the following graph comparing Norway and Sweden’s death curves suggest the lockdown in Norway was more effective than Sweden’s approach.
Two points to keep in mind:
First, it is hard to judge the effectiveness of these policies until at least a year has passed. Can countries that locked down early or had good contact tracing programs in place keep the virus suppressed forever?
Second, Norway has admitted their lockdown was a mistake. “Our assessment now….is that we could possibly have achieved the same effects and avoided some of the unfortunate impacts by not locking down, but by instead keeping open but with infection control measures,”
Hurt – Yes & it is going to get worse before it gets better
While it is debatable if the lockdowns helped, it is clear they hurt. Here is a pretty transparent and fair attempt to quantify the lockdown deaths using CDC data. Following this graphic are a sampling of reports detailing how badly the lockdown is hurting people.
Hunger & Malnutrition
Virus-linked hunger is leading to the deaths of 10,000 more children a month over the first year of the pandemic, according to an urgent call to action from the United Nations shared with The Associated Press ahead of its publication in the Lancet medical journal.
Further, more than 550,000 additional children each month are being struck by …malnutrition…Over a year, that’s up 6.7 million from last year’s total of 47 million.
Financial hardship has spiked during the coronavirus pandemic with more than 1 in 10 adults telling a Census survey during the first week of July that they sometimes or often didn’t have enough to eat, a rate that is two-and-a-half times higher than before the crisis.
More than 6 million people signed up to receive food stamps in the first three months of the US coronavirus outbreak according to an analysis from The New York Times
That figure could rise even further if the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act expires as planned by the end of July. This would will see many Americans lose $600 a week in benefits and become eligible for food stamps, USA Today reported
In the same period, US billionaires have increased their wealth by around $565 billion according to the Institute for Policy Studies
More than 6 million people signed up to receive food stamps in the first three months of the US coronavirus outbreak, according to an analysis from The New York Times.
85% of independent restaurants could permanently close in 2020: report – Business Insider
Local Independent Restaurants May Not Survive the Coronavirus Pandemic – The New York Times
Yelp’s Economic Average report out Wednesday shows exactly how tough: 60 percent of the 26,160 temporarily closed restaurants on the business review site as of July are now permanently shut. Temporary closures are dropping, and permanent shutdowns are increasing.
“We are currently receiving more calls than we can answer, and are unable to assist you at this time. Please try again later.” It’s the message many people are hearing over and over as they desperately try to contact EDD. Why is it still taking so long for EDD to respond to some claimants?
“After adjusting for age, sex, education level and comorbidities, heart failure patients unemployed at baseline had a 50% increased risk of death and 12% increased risk of rehospitalisation for heart failure compared to those who were employed. Not being part of the workforce was associated with a higher likelihood of death than history of diabetes or stroke.:
Mental Health & Suicides:
Nearly half of Americans report the coronavirus crisis is harming their mental health, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll . A federal emergency hotline for people in emotional distress registered a more than 1,000 percent increase in April compared with the same time last year. Last month, roughly 20,000 people texted that hotline, run by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Online therapy company Talkspace reported a 65 percent jump in clients since mid-February. Text messages and transcribed therapy sessions collected anonymously by the company show coronavirus-related anxiety dominating patients’ concerns.
Already, a third of Americans are feeling severe anxiety , according to Census Bureau data, and nearly a quarter show signs of depression. A recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that the pandemic had negatively affected the mental health of 56 percent of adults. In April, texts to a federal emergency mental-health line were up 1,000 percent from the year before.
“We’ve never seen numbers like this, in such a short period of time,” he said. “I mean we’ve seen a year’s worth of suicide attempts in the last four weeks.”
“Since the beginning of this pandemic New York has seen a dramatic increase in the number of domestic violence cases across the state,” Governor Cuomo said.
The United Nations called on Sunday for urgent action to combat the worldwide surge in domestic violence. “I urge all governments to put women’s safety first as they respond to the pandemic,” Secretary General António Guterres wrote…
Substance Abuse: The Opioid Epidemic
More than 35 states have reported increases in opioid-related mortality as well as ongoing concerns for those with a mental illness or substance use disorder in counties and other areas within the state. You can find 20 National News reports as well as reports from 39 states at this AMA page.
Here is one example: “Public health officials from Kentucky to Florida, Texas and Colorado have recorded surges in opioid deaths as the economic and social anxieties created by the Covid-19 pandemic prove fertile ground for addiction. In addition, Brumage said significant numbers of people have fallen out of treatment programmes as support networks have been yanked away by social distancing orders.” Opioid overdoses are skyrocketing’: as Covid-19 sweeps across US an old epidemic returns
Deaths of despair
Here are three comprehensive pieces on “Deaths of Despair” due to the lockdowns:
The new study combined information on deaths of despair in 2018 (nearly 182,000) with projected unemployment levels from 2020 to 2029, and economic modeling.
The upshot: With a rapid recovery and the smallest impact on deaths of despair, the COVID-19 pandemic would lead to nearly 28,000 additional deaths of despair.
But a very slow recovery combined with the greatest impact of unemployment could result in more than 150,000 deaths of despair, the study estimates. Researchers think somewhere in the middle is most likely, with 75,000 additional deaths. Coronavirus pandemic may lead to 75,000 “deaths of despair” from suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, study says – CBS News
We do not actually know that these deaths are increasing during the Covid-19 pandemic. Police and crisis hotlines may — or may not — be receiving extra calls for domestic violence and child abuse . Firearm homicide rates are staying steady . Suicides are certainly occurring, but there is no evidence to date that their rate is on the rise (and we may not know the impact of the pandemic on suicide for years to come). Despite ample evidence that anxiety is increasing during the pandemic, anxiety alone is rarely a driver for suicide. It is not even a risk factor for it.
If politicians really care so much about vulnerable citizens, where were they a year ago, or five years ago, when those in the public health community began to raise the alarm about the rising tide of these deaths? And where are they now, in addressing the underlying social issues that drive despair and that won’t be fixed by reopening?
Let’s examine 3 scenarios: lower bound, mid-range, and upper bound. Following the Brenner (1976) model, these figures all reflect the estimated cumulative impact of an increase in unemployment on mortality over a five-year lag period.
Lower bound. If the unemployment rate increases by 5 points as a result of the various lockdowns, then 294,170 additional lives will be lost, not from coronavirus, but from deaths of despair.
Mid-range. If the unemployment rate increases by 16.5 points (as predicted by Treasury Secretary Mnuchin), then 970,761 additional lives will be lost to deaths of despair.
Upper bound. And if the unemployment rate increases by 10-fold — which is what we are already seeing in several states — then 1,853,271 lives will be lost to deaths of despair from government orders to lock down, shut down, and shelter in place.