Even though C19 isn't that frequently mentioned here compared to other sites, you may be tired of me focusing on the one particular statistic of Excess Deaths. It is born of some frustration, as I keep reading comments on other sites that 'what they are saying Covid deaths aren't "really" Covid deaths.' I don't know what the percentages are - perhaps I am solving a problem that doesn't much exist. Still, I worry. As explanation, some will point out that hospitals get a lot of money for Covid patients. One of my sons, who works at a hospital, even said that offhand. If we could establish that there weren't that many more deaths, then we might go looking at why the reported numbers were so high. CS Lewis made an analogy of bringing your child to the doctor, only to be told many reasons why your child is sick, without having established that he is sick.
He is like a doctor who makes no diagnosis and prescribes no cure but tells you how the patient got the disease (still unspecified) and tells you wrong because he is describing scenes or events on which he has no evidence. The fond parents ask, 'What is it? Is it scarlatina or measles or chicken-pox?' The doctor replies, 'Depend upon it, he picked it up in one of those crowded trains.' (The patient actually has not traveled by train lately.) They then ask, ‘But what are we to do? How are we to treat him?' The doctor replies, 'You may be quite sure it was an infection.' "On Criticism" Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories by CS Lewis.
So also with the false distinction of dying from Covid and with Covid. If there were not about a half-million more deaths than we get in other years, which will be 400-600,000 by the time we hit our one-year anniversary, then we would be justified in asking where all this exaggeration comes from, and guessing whether it is ordinary flu, other respiratory illnesses, or heart disease that is getting renamed Covid for political reasons. It is at least not illogical to say that these extra deaths are coming from more suicides, more homicides, or postponed medical care because of our focus on the coronavirus. If you want to take that tack, then show your numbers, not just scattered reports of those, but real numbers of "We have half a million excess deaths this year because we had 100,000 more suicides, and 100,000 more homicides, and 300,000 extra deaths because of medical care that was not given because hospitals and clinics were too busy treating nonexistent (or at least exaggerated) Covid." Show your work.
But you must certainly suspect that no such numbers are forthcoming, and if you go that route you will bring poor results to the discussion. They ain't there. I will say again, C19 deaths are underreported, not overreported. Hospitals and doctors may have incentives, but governors have incentives too.
Right from the beginning I have stressed that I think it important that we balance what we lose versus what we gain from any interventions, mandated or voluntary. Businesses went under or downsized, laying off workers. We think that more children's educations are being harmed than are being helped by the remote education, particularly those with special needs. We wonder whether their social development is being harmed. Is not loneliness itself a bad consequence, even if we cannot precisely measure the ill effect? On the flip side, there are things to put in the other balance pan. Those who died left behind friends and relatives whose lives are harmed. There is increasing evidence that even people who recovered from C19 have long-term effects. If hearts and lungs are damaged then lives will be shortened down the road. Loss of taste and smell fairly screams "neurological symptoms." Your taste buds didn't go away, after all. That is a terrible wildcard.
Yet I think it is a fair discussion to have, and have said so all year.
But I will not have that discussion with someone who refuses to accept that the deaths are real, or denying they are coronavirus without providing at least a plausible explanation what it is instead. It would be like discussing foreign policy with someone who thinks Iran is part of Europe, or botany with someone who is sure oaks are conifers.
This problem may be about to fix itself because reports are coming out that Cuomo underreported Covid in nursing homes, and some other states may be similarly making their numbers look better than they are. The previous skeptics have a sudden incentive to switch sides on this. I suppose I should be grateful.
Two more sections.
You can get to the CDC web page about Excess Deaths, which has interesting information in itself, such as a graph I have linked before, now updated. Sorry for the lack of clarity. I apparently haven't the skill. The spikes in excess deaths on the far right begin last February, continuing to the present and the y-axis numbers are in increments of 20,000 deaths (per week), for all causes of death. The other section above the line over toward the left is right around Jan 1, 2018.
An explanation of what the two different bars mean, from the explanations on the page, to save you the time looking for it.
A range of values for the number of excess deaths was calculated as the difference between the observed count and one of two thresholds (either the average expected count or the upper bound of the 95% prediction interval), by week and jurisdiction.
When one goes browsing among the states and looking at the graphs and charts, some interesting things show up. For example, Massachusetts, Arizona, and Tennessee all have about 7M people. If you just go to Worldometers and click the "Deaths per Million" column - which is admittedly what I nearly always do - you would think that Massachusetts is one of the worst, worst states for deaths, Arizona sorta bad with 2,000 fewer deaths, and Tennessee (about average for the country) with 5,000 fewer than MA. But Arizona has a total of 5,000 more excess deaths and Tennessee 2,000. If not C19, what are they? Georgia has almost 4M more people than MA and claims to have about 1,000 fewer Covid deaths. But they have over 4,000 more excess deaths. Michigan is worse - it has 9,000 more. FL and CA both seem to be severely underreporting. Does that trace to their governors? Could be.
NH seems good but not stunning here.