November 2, 2020 Reading Time: 4 minutes

On March 28 – very early in the pandemic – AIER published an article that I felt at the time received far too little attention. “Drugs, Suicide, and Crime: Empirical Estimates of the Human Toll of the Shutdown” by economists Audrey and Thomas Duncan cited empirical literature on the human toll of economic devastation. 

This article forecasted more than 100,000 excess deaths due to drug overdoses, suicide, alcoholism, homicide, and untreated depression – all a result not of the virus but of policies of mandatory human separation, economic downturn, business and school closures, closed medical services, and general depression that comes with a loss of freedom and choice. 

These two economists demonstrated that as bad as a virus is, policies that wreck normal social functioning will cause massive and completely unnecessary suffering and death. Because the article was so well-cited, with references to all the available literature, I thought it would make a difference. But after it appeared, it was crickets. I was amazed. Here you have a beautiful piece of research that perfectly forecasted the nightmare being created by politicians and their advisers and it made no dent in the national narrative. 

Here we are seven months later and the worst has come true. These two economists should be considered prophets. Sure enough, the Centers for Disease Control has documented a shocking number of excess deaths not from Covid

Scott Atlas summarizes:

  • Hispanic: 40% excess deaths NOT Covid related 
  • Black: 46% NOT Covid related 
  • White: 38% NOT Covid related 
  • 25-44: 77% excess deaths NOT Covid related 
  • 65+: 39% NOT Covid related

The most startling data concerns the age group 25-44. This is a group with a Covid-related infection fatality rate of 0.0092%, which is to say barely a disease at all for nearly everyone in this group. And yet they are dying at a rate far above what is expected, and mostly from issues not related to Covid. There should not be any excess deaths. Instead we find people dropping dead in ways that are shocking. 

These excess deaths have profoundly and disproportionately affected minority communities. 

The relevant part of this CDC graph, which marks above expected deaths this year, are the dark blue and black portions of the graph, which indicated non-Covid deaths. 

Now consider the CDC’s attempt to mask what is really going on here, carefully trying not to use the word lockdown. 

Overall, an estimated 299,028 excess deaths have occurred in the United States from late January through October 3, 2020, with two thirds of these attributed to COVID-19. The largest percentage increases were seen among adults aged 25–44 years and among Hispanic or Latino (Hispanic) persons. These results provide information about the degree to which COVID-19 deaths might be underascertained and inform efforts to prevent mortality directly or indirectly associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, such as efforts to minimize disruptions to health care.

That’s the CDC’s way of saying: these policies are killing people. As for minimizing disruptions to health care, a major factor here is that people have been completely avoiding getting health care this year, for fear of Covid, for fear of contract tracing, and also because many medical services have been forcibly reserved for people with Covid, and to hell with everyone else. Cancer screenings, routine checkups, normal procedures, to say nothing of dentistry have certainly been disrupted. Now we can see the carnage in plain daylight. 

The report avoids speculation about the causes of these mysterious deaths but does offer this one hint:

Specifically, deaths from circulatory diseases, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, and respiratory diseases have increased in 2020 relative to past years, and it is unclear to what extent these represent misclassified COVID-19 deaths or deaths indirectly related to the pandemic (e.g., because of disruptions in health care access or utilization).

That’s a rather cold way of saying that the lockdowns have failed completely to protect the most vulnerable and instead increased deaths among the oldest population too. 

So far as I know, this is the first full accounting of what’s been going on beneath the Covid-covered surface, a topic on which the media has shown almost no interest at all. You can read at the American Medical Association about overdoses, or a full roundup from ABC News (rather rare). 

People are dying across all demographics due to the radical transformation of life itself. In addition, new research is showing that there has been a huge increase in excess deaths in elder-care homes probably due to despair and loneliness from the prevention of family visits. 

The whole pattern is extraordinary and deeply tragic. It was also entirely predictable. Instead of dealing rationally with a textbook virus, as we had done during the whole of the 20th century, we embarked on a new social/political experiment in lockdowns. We attempted to intimidate a virus with PhDs and political power, hoping that it would shrivel and die, and in so doing dramatically disabled human freedom and social functioning. What do we have to show for it? Massive carnage, and a virus that is still with us.

Jeffrey A. Tucker

Jeffrey A. Tucker served as Editorial Director for the American Institute for Economic Research from 2017 to 2021.

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