Pandemic Data Deficit

Pandemic Data Deficit

In early 2020, I theorized that lockdowns and an overly onerous response to the public health threat that is would have far-reaching consequences in other areas of public health, namely: suicides, drug overdoses and violent crime. I wasn’t alone in this assessment.

It has long been known that unemployment rates and economic growth rates both have a very measurable and significant correlation with death rates. Indeed, Harvey Brenner’s 2016 study conducted for the European Union shows a significant correlation – and further demonstrates that the worst impact is – on average – two years after the increase in unemployment. So we are well nigh to enter into the very worst of the fallout from policy decisions meant to “protect” Americans.

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Now – almost two years into this COVID epidemic, and under threat from continuing lockdowns, mask mandates and other largely ineffective and economically debilitating measures, it should not come as a surprise that we are seeing memes like this, shared with me by my wife:

Fentanyl overdoses become no. 1 cause of death. . .

But how accurate is this meme? Was my assessment and understanding of the impact of economic hardship on mortality and other outcomes accurate?

So – time to dive into some data – and see what I could find out…

…and I was immediately chagrined to find a lack of useful data sources. 

Mortality data on suicide, violent crime and drug overdoses are not being updated at the normal rate on the CDC’s website, or on the collaborative data project USAFACTS.org. Indeed, even state reporting seems to be falling far behind on a variety of public health matters.

Part of the CDC’s mission is to gather and report on public health data so that policymakers and lawmakers can make sound decisions on matters related to public health. 

Generally the hard data on mortality becomes available several times a year, as county-level mortality data is made available by the states to the CDC – then assessed and compared to models and other data sources to determine the accuracy of the supplied data – they generally update most mortality measures every six months.

But interestingly, the data spigot on anything other than COVID deaths has been turned off.

Indeed, the suicide data charts only go to 2019 – and numbers on state specific metrics from the National Center for Health Statistics shows numbers that are even older in most cases – but not the COVID numbers. The COVID numbers are clearly not from the same time period and, furthermore, are cherry picked to show the highest mortality rates.

Is this intentional? Probably not. 

Now, there is typically a rational explanation for what appears to be a conspiracy in the offing. That isn’t to suggest that nefarious motivators are not at play – things like the allocation of funds, and policy directives based on media and politically driven hysteria are indeed factors, but they are not what ultimately determine what data is shared. Not usually.

Odds are, since hysteria over COVID is rampant, scarce reporting and data assessment resources are being allocated to reporting on COVID, despite the fact that other health factors that are potentially more serious – and likely rising as a result of policy directives meant to save us all. 

So what am I saying here? I guess a few things…but mostly I’m saying that data showing that the cure to the disease is likely worse than the disease itself is conveniently hard to come by.

SEE ALSO: Why Did the Flu Disappear? Hint: It Wasn’t the Masks.

I’m not saying COVID isn’t serious – our family had it, and it was no fun. But generally COVID is very survivable for most segments of the population. Those at the most risk had a variety of complicating risk-factors – and were mostly older. 

So, we’ve made a broad policy choice here: to save those who were closest to death at the risk of a large swath of population that were savable and had much more life to lose.

Now before you get all upset that I’m saying kill grandma – I’m not. I think it is our duty and responsibility to do what we can from a policy perspective to create the best ongoing outcome for every American. That said, we have to weigh those choices carefully – and I fear that yet again, policy is being driven by hysteria and politics in a way that is causing far more harm than good – because many grandmas still died, and now your son’s friend overdosed on fentanyl, and the young man who once attended church is facing prison for armed robbery.

These terrible things happen – we can’t stop them. We can however mitigate them, and weighing the method of mitigation using policy and legislation as the means requires access to useful and meaningful data. And we are not getting that.

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The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of American Liberty News.

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