Covid Metamorphoses #35 – Number

So we were talking last week, the other adult in the house and I, wondering if the reported number of Covid deaths were being kept artificially low. We live in a small enough town that we hear things from people who know people who work at the hospital–a hospital where an employee could be fired for discussing these things with a reporter, or even a semi-obscure blogger–that there have been a lot more deaths than what we’re seeing in the papers.

The other adult and I wondered how you could even start to investigate something like that. And after a few minutes, we agreed the first thing to do would be to compare the number of dead people in 2020 against previous years. It would be really interesting to see how 2020’s body count compares with 2019’s. And if 2020’s number turned out to be significantly higher, even after you took away the reported Covid deaths, then it would stand to reason that a lot of the extra deaths would likely be unreported Covid cases, or deaths from Covid complications.

Well, someone at the New York Times had the same idea, and they got access to the numbers.

Go read the article--it’s free, and you’ve got nothing but time, right?¹ But here’s a quick synopsis: there are all kinds of complicating factors, but it stands to reason that taking the number of reported Corona deaths and doubling it would be a good start.

Because in order to be reported, you have to have tested positive. And not everyone who dies is getting tested, especially if they die at home. And there have been spikes in at-home deaths all over the country, as reported by ProPublica. The article added a few more reasons not to take the CDC numbers at face value.

Bureaucratic delays and restrictive laws are also contributing to an incomplete picture. Some state officials told ProPublica it would take weeks to provide complete death numbers because of thin staffing or antiquated computer systems. In California, a Health Department spokesman said a request for detailed figures on statewide deaths would take a month to process and would cost $325. (ProPublica plans to pay for it.) Hawaii has suspended the processing of public records.

The CDC is logging COVID deaths by collecting death certificates from every state, territory and the District of Columbia, a meticulous process that involves time lags and is vulnerable to errors. Hayward, who is part of a CDC advisory council on vital statistics, said the quality and speed of the data coming in varies so much that it can feel like wrangling reports from more than 50 countries.

So the official number of reported deaths is just the tip of the iceberg (or if you have a thing against cliches, call it “the arm of the corpse,” or maybe “the surface of the puddle of piss” I don’t know. And since many people in our government, as well as uber-capitalist business owners, seem to have a vested interest in minimizing the effect of the disease, up to and including lying, it’s not far-fetched to imagine the under-counting being done by public health officials isn’t an accident. It doesn’t take a conspiracy theory; it just takes everyone involved acting in their own selfish best interests.

Or to put it more clearly, when someone Tucker Carlson, or Jared Kushner, throw out a number like 50,000, or 60,000, as proof that the effect of the disease hasn’t been all that bad, they’re lying their asses off. Never mind the cruelty of calling 60,000 dead Americans  “a success story,” especially when your father-in-law said the disease wasn’t going to come here and we had nothing to worry about, and he’s spent the entire time actively harming the effort to fight the disease. And maybe it’s a good time to say for the second time in this series that if Donald John Trump had put a loaded gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger on February 1st, this country would have been a lot better off.

Or he could have resigned! Oh yeah. Sure. He totally could have done that too. Sorry, it’s been a long…seven weeks. But I think we can all agree DJT is a criminal extortionist piece of shit.

And anyone out there who is making policy decisions based on the reported numbers has an agenda, or is ignorant, but either way they are not to be trusted.


¹I’m kidding of course. Fighting off depression is a full-time job. Hell, I had a bad dream last night that’s still sucking my energy 5+ hours into my day.

About ScottCreney

Scott Creney lives in Athens, Georgia. He is the author of "Dear Al-Qaeda: Letters to the World’s Most Notorious Terror Organiztion".
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