Death Should Not Be The Standard For Covid-19
Death should not be the standard by which we measure Covid-19. The economy should not be the standard for Covid-19. Covid-19 should be the standard. Its survivors are often hospitalized for weeks, and left with severe long term health effects. That alone should be enough for us to be as vigilant as possible in preventing it’s transmission.
The best estimates now of the overall mortality rate for COVID-19 is somewhere between 0.1 percent and one percent.Admiral Brett Giroir, Assistant Secretary of Health, March 2020
The United States has a population of approximately 330,00,000. If one percent of the population dies, that’s 3,300,000 people dead, about more than double the deaths in 2018 (2019 not complete). Do we think that will affect the economy?
Wealth Does Not Mean Health
In 19 countries including the U.S., U.K., Japan and Australia between 1950 and 2008, for every 1 percent increase in GDP during a growth period, the death rates rises 0.38 percent for men in the 40 to 44 year old group. It rises 0.36 percent for the 70 to 74 year olds males. For women, the death rates increased 0.16 percent for those in their 40s and 0.18 percent for those in their 70s with the economic downturn.
With recessions come fewer people on the roads, which means fewer traffic accidents. And as we’re seeing now with worldwide lockdowns, less driving also means improved air quality. Since poor air quality is a in its own right, the air cleanup caused by economic downturns could partly explain the reduction in deaths caused by respiratory and cardiovascular disease.
Less work also means fewer workplace injuries and more leisure time, which possibly leads to more exercise, more home cooking, and less money for booze and cigarettes.Cathleen O’Grady, Ars Technica
In the same article, O’Grady talks about the downside:
While many people experience reduced stress, less risk of accidents, and lower disease burden as a result of economic downturns, others are still hit hard. Mental health deteriorates. Binge drinking booms. For some, stress-related conditions increase, and in the US, healthcare may become impossible to access for many. Suicide rates do seem to increase as a result of recessions—although both suicides and opioid-related deaths in the US have continued to increase even as the economy has recovered, and other factors play a role.
While there are certainly downsides, recessions (an assumption accompanying a shutdown that does not necessarily have to be true) would actually save lives in certain age groups. But what about the vast majority of people who get Covid-19 but don’t die?
What’s Worse Than Death?
As Carlos Junior Gomez highlights, for every one person who dies:
- 19 more require hospitalization.
- 18 of those will have permanent heart damage for the rest of their lives.
- 10 will have permanent lung damage.
- 3 will have strokes.
- 2 will have neurological damage that leads to chronic weakness and loss of coordination.
- 2 will have neurological damage that leads to loss of cognitive function.
In other words, this is what a 1 percent fatality rate looks like:
- 62,358,000 hospitalized.
- 59,076,000 people with permanent heart damage.
- 32,820,000 people with permanent lung damage.
- 9,846,000 people with strokes.
- 6,564,000 people with muscle weakness.
- 6,564,000 people with loss of cognitive function.
The economy in recession statistically shows an increase in life expectancy. Financial concerns could be alleviated with the proper federal response. Encouraging people to go back to work deprioritizes life in favor of profit, income, and revenue.