Commentary / Coronavirus

Facts Suggest Time to Reopen Economy

Three facts should define how we see COVID-19 – and whether America reopens. They are important, not much talked about. They should guide policy at all levels.

First, total deaths attributed to the virus may be inaccurate, due to death certificate discontinuities. Second, non-coronavirus deaths may be spiking from the shutdown. Third, virus deaths are clustered, while most counties have no deaths.

Facts matter. Different jurisdictions are attributing death to COVID-19 in different ways, and that has big implications. CDC guidance has been loose and changing, creating pervasive and systemic inaccuracy in state death counts. The guidance talks of assumptions in assigning cause of death, which is creating wild differences state to state.

Specifically, some authorities allow “cause of death” to be presumed, without testing.  Others downplay comorbidities.  While this may raise numbers for federal aid, it also overrepresents the population dying of COVID-19.

For example, a respiratory death in someone with advanced cancer, heart disease, emphysema, bronchitis, asthma, pulmonary hypertension, occupational lung disease, progressive stroke, diabetes, flu, pneumonia, liver disease, cirrhosis, or Alzheimer’s – could be identified as COVID-19.  While the virus may hasten the outcome, the cause is elsewhere.

Compounding the problem, human judgments without testing are subjective.  In a crisis, fear and public expectations reinforce over-classification. Corroborating overstatement of COVID-19 deaths is hard, but loose guidance suggests inaccuracy. One indication of overcounting is that leading causes of death in any given year include all the above.

In other words, people die annually of these diseases. When a terminal patient dies early from a respiratory ailment is that a “COVID-19 death”?  At best, numbers are misleading.  At worst, they are misinforming policy.

How inaccurate could they be? Colorado provides a good example. The state just admitted overcounting, saying many who tested positive for COVID-19 died of something else. As reported, “Colorado has made a stunning and significant change to the way it counts COVID-19 deaths,” markedly reducing “statewide figures.”

According to Colorado’s Public Health Department, the state was counting “those who tested positive for the coronavirus but died of other causes.”  They say a realistic review changed everything.  Of 1,150 people who tested positive, only 878 deaths are now “due to” COVID-19.

Beyond evolving “death certificate” guidance, states are realizing a test does not decide “cause of death.”  Thus, a patient with severe organ damage who gets a verifiable cold and dies does not die of a cold.

In short, our count is compromised.  As our “official” COVID-19 death toll nears 90,000, one must ask:  Are these deaths typically found in top ten causes being re-catalogued COVID-19?

Of course, the media will not ask. They are ready to report big numbers.  Still, now that Colorado has amended numbers, reducing overall deaths attributable to COVID-19, should other states follow?  Should national aggregators?

Second, look hard at rising non-coronavirus deaths – correlated with the shutdown.  Based on past studies, jumps may be expected in cancers (tied to postponed elective surgery), heart attacks and strokes (untimely diagnosis and elevated stress), drug overdoses (stress and poverty), alcohol poisoning and suicides (ditto).

History teaches stress rises in economic downturns as unemployment, insecurity, debt and doubt mount.  In recent weeks, we have seen 33 million first-time unemployment claims, a record. One in five Americans who was employed in February today is not.

Worse, poorly managed states are bungling benefits, businesses are preparing for bankruptcy, and inexcusable delays dogged Congress in March and April – when the chance to save lives, jobs and businesses counted most.

If these circumstances did not elevate stress, other events did.  Key consumer goods were hard to find, relatives hard to visit, churches and barbers closed.

Governors – each getting a paycheck – have done “daily crisis briefings.”  Maybe numbers now suffering the economic shutdown should start to be tallied, too.

In short, two causes of higher non-coronavirus deaths are at work –

elevated economic stress and uncertainty about when America gets back to work.  Taken together, they are a heavy counterweight.  We cannot let the virus take precedence over reopening – even if reopening must be done thoughtfully.

At that point, we will be looking backwards, very possibly wishing we had reopened faster, gotten people back to work, lowered aggregate stress and uncertainty, restored economic normality.

Third, other facts favor accelerated reopening.  Put aside constitutional arguments, balancing liberty with gubernatorial police powers.  Look at county-by-county numbers.

At this point, more than half of all COVID-19 deaths – however you count – are in one percent of the nation’s counties.  Those counties represent roughly 15 percent of the nation’s population.

By contrast, more than 50 percent of counties have had zero virus deaths – even under loose rules – and 63 percent of counties have had zero or one death.

Does that tell us something?  Does that recommend we “bring the lights up” by county? Maybe so.  Would that give us a reopening that gets half the country “back on our feet,” the rest assisted by monetary, fiscal, and presidential action?

In short, three facts – inaccurate death counts, spiking non-coronavirus deaths from duress, and good health for many – should tip the balance to thoughtful, measured, accelerated reopening.  If we fear the future, we are unfaithful to our past.  Some things are unknowable. Common sense says time to turn the dial.

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PaulE
4 months ago

I’ve spoken with multiple doctors over the last few weeks and virtually every single one of them has said the Wuhan virus is being massively over-hyped and the majority of the economy should be re-opened immediately. In actuality, they all said we should have re-opened the economy after the initial two week shutdown period ended in early April. Which allowed the hospitals to all ramp up and stock up for any realistic Covid-19 demand on the medical system. Not the demands by the likes of Cuomo, Murphy and others for tens of thousands more ventilators than they would ever likely… Read more »

Rik
4 months ago

Well, well, just another nail in the coffin of the Progressively Communist Democrats and their “overblown” keep the country “closed down” mantra because “a life saved is more important than the country’s economy”. They know perfectly well that the “only” chance they had in defeating President Trump from being reelected is to destroy the economy and then try to put the blame on President Trump. The only problem is that President Trump outsmarted them again by forcing the Governors to “proclaim” that they and only they would make the decision as to when they would decide to do so. Now… Read more »

stephen russell
4 months ago

Heard on Varney that 100 MDs signed document to Reopen Economy & look at social data for Econ: missed elective medical issues, depression, loss of finances, etc abuse. worse than Virus.
Open Up US now

JerryH
4 months ago

What may have started as a healthcare crisis has quickly morphed into a political power struggle that pits the people against the bureaucrats. The blue state governors have demonstrated a lust for power never before seen in this country. It is past time to end this charade.

Morbious
4 months ago

Ive a different summation: much of what has been visited upon the country is ‘mueller continued’. I used to wonder about how the various atrocities under lenin happened and vaguely thought it was due to some deficit in the russian character. Of course its not. Power is the most potent drug and the most sought after ‘thing’ that has ever existed. The demon party is so rabid because they had almost reached their goal with the election of mrs clinton. It was simply intolerable that she lost. Folks, lets feed them some more humble pie in November. Donate to the… Read more »

BajaRon
4 months ago

There are those who would sacrifice anything. You, me, the US Constitution, the integrity of our nation. Anything, to defeat Trump. To them, nothing is sacred, there is nothing that is not on the table for them. The governor of California has been giving millions of tax payer dollars to illegal aliens (ILLEGAL! mind you). And now threatens to decimate the ranks of first responders if the rest of us (who had no say in his ascendancy to the throne in California) do not bail out his state. There are governors, all over the US letting hardened, convicted criminals out… Read more »

Glenn Lego
4 months ago

“we will be looking backwards, very possibly wishing we had reopened faster, gotten people back to work, lowered aggregate stress and uncertainty, restored economic normality. ” Shoot! I already wish we reopened faster, etc. I don’t have to wait for some future time.

MICHAEL FAILLA
4 months ago

1/…..Always follow the money.
2/ Qui bono? (Who benefits?).

Apply this to any question and you will usually get the right answer or certainly the usual suspects.
You could also look at it like this:

Once is happenstance.
Twice is coincidence.
Three times? Enemy actions.

Has never let me down.

Paul Revere
4 months ago

When I see the protests taking place in commie states, I think maybe there’s still hope for Constitutional America & maybe, just maybe, Joe Biden won’t be the next president, Nancy Pelosi will be out of a job & Chuck Schumer will be further marginalized. I am, however, aware that there are still a frightening number of empty-headed, kool-aid drinking, mind numbed zombies out there eager to turn our great Republic into an autocratic socialist paradise, just like in Cuba, Venezuela and, of course, let’s not forget that shining nation on a hill, China. Good luck to us all in… Read more »

Brenda Blunt
4 months ago

Some people are trying to destroy the USA any way they want and don’t care who gets hurt in the first place as long as they profit from it!! Scumbags!! Fraud is increasing as long as they get their money!!

Hdrydr
4 months ago

FACTS mean NOTHING to the Democraps that are desperate to keep their CONTROL over FREE Americans. These puke maggot Democraps want the AMERICAN economy to tank because President Trump brought us prosperity after the muzzlum Manchurian Candidate, the obamanation, said that the economy and jobs wouldn’t come back.
MAGA. KAG.

Bill Ranahan
4 months ago

YES,YES,YESTERDAY

Gram Cracker
4 months ago

As always, you are a breath of fresh air!! We should make sure your articles go viral!

Wayne
4 months ago

Precautions, yes, by all means, But the shut down shouldn`t have happened in the first place and was 100% pure political right from the start. Go Trump Go

Trap
4 months ago

Here in AK we open up 100% tomorrow, Friday the 22 at 0800 hrs. Mandates gone and guidelines suggested. GL and stay healthy.

golfer
4 months ago

Very well said. We’ve never shut down before. It should never happen again. The whole picture should have been considered. And must be taken into account in any future disease outbreak.

Patty Louise Moran
4 months ago

I’m so glad you are speaking for all of us! Thanks, God bless!

T Taylor
4 months ago

Crisis Perspective For a small amount of perspective at this moment, imagine you were born in 1900. On your 14th birthday , World War l starts, and ends on your 18th birthday. 22 million people perish in that war. Later in the year, a Spanish Flu epidemic hits the planet and runs until your 20th birthday. 50 million people die from it in those two years. Yes, 50 million. On your 29th birthday, the Great Depression begins. Unemployment hits 25%, the World GDP drops 27%. That runs until you are 33. The country nearly collapses along with the world economy.… Read more »

Michael Venaccio
4 months ago

Have always suspected that there were problems with all the data presented and what it is being used for. What got us into this mess was the reliance on the flawed Imperial College of London model that said over 2 million Americans would die if nothing was done. Well, that model was proven wrong, but once the accurate models showed up, they seem to have been discounted. Like politicians do not like to admit they were wrong, or more likely, they liked the power. Even the actual number of total infections may be off by factors of up to 40… Read more »

Paul W
4 months ago

The tyrannical just keeps moving the goalpost. The fact is…it’s past time. There are companies that have been around forever, that will never recover. We’ve been had…badly.

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