Mortality and COVID: Why the “experts” have problems with 4th grade math
One, two, three, four. We love numbers.
When we feed them to people, they act much dumber, and
Five, six, seven, eight, they always listen
Cause a bunch of numbers scares them as they’re running and pissing.
-From The Numbers Game song, Geriatrics Vengeance Club
The vital statistics rapid release report of July 2021 made a claim that is fairly shocking to those of us who live on planet earth, who have a functioning brain, who are not influenced by dogma, and who recoil when statistical “facts” fall in the face of a very clear reality. First, the report points out that life expectancy in the US declined by 1.5 years in 2020 compared to 2019. OK, that’s understandable; there’s been a steady drop in life expectancy recently, and in fact Americans are dying sooner now than they were 20 years ago despite (or maybe because of) the increase in our health care budget from about $800 billion to $4 trillion during that time. Yes, the more doctors spend to “save” you with all their “necessary and life-saving” drugs, tests, and procedures, the shorter you live. I document all of this in my book Curing Medicare and in other blogs, and my upcoming book about Flexner and Osler tells us why.
Still, the sharp decline last year was unprecedented. So, yea, it must have been COVID, right? That’s what the report (and pundits in the media and vocal medical community) states unequivocally:
The decline of 1.5 years in life expectancy between 2019 and 2020 was primarily due to increases in mortality due to COVID-19 (73.8% of the negative contribution), unintentional injuries (11.2%), homicide (3.1%), diabetes (2.5%), and Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis (2.3%) The decline in life expectancy would have been even greater were it not for the offsetting effects of decreases in mortality due to cancer (45.2%), Chronic lower respiratory diseases (CLRD) (20.8%), heart disease (5.0%), suicide (4.6%), and Certain conditions originating in the perinatal period (4.0%).
Not a lot of nuance there! COVID contributed to 73.8% of the decline. How did they derive that? Surly they have models and formulas that tease out such numbers. Of course, since the CDC has not been forthcoming about suicide and death from depression, since many death certificates that list COVID as a source of death are in fact quite misleading (die of a car accident and you have COVID, then you died of COVID; had COVID 3 months ago and now you die of something else, it’s COVID; I’ve seen this just in my own practice, and it’s a monster problem in the nation that we have not yet grappled with), and the fact that other causes of death have mysteriously improved (flu, pneumonia, heart disease, suicide) that we in fact know have been consistently rising. It’s a premature and flawed report, and just another example of how our brilliant dogmatic scientists want to tie all the world’s misery to COVID.
David Leonhardt in the New York Times does bring up a bit of another angle, although he also drives very quickly into the COVID swamp. He points out that death rates have been declining, that most of the decline is in low-income people, and that these declines are often from “deaths of despair,” caused by depression, alcohol abuse, and drug use. As he says: “COVID, of course, has aggravated the country’s health inequalities.”
But was it COVID? Or was it the repercussions of draping the nation in a blanket of unending fear, the quarantine, the elimination of schools and activities and hope for kids, the uncertainty of our futures, the loss of income and jobs, and the never-ending news reports that this is not ever going away? That’s not COVID, that’s our dysfunctional response to COVID. Did we cause this catastrophe, not COVID, but driving up the despair index that led to deaths in the young from depression and drug OD’s, that led to other illness and to poverty?
Let’s look at some basic facts, before I explain why this report’s conclusions are premature at best and misleading at worst.
First of all, to get such a dramatic drop in life expectancy from COVID, people have to die who are fairly young and who would have lived many more decades had not COVID intervened, and there would have to be a lot of those people compared to the population. This is how our nation’s life expectancy improved so much in the middle and end of the 20th century. It wasn’t the stents and statins and stress tests that our medical community has assured us are keeping us alive longer; our books will show you why those had nothing to do with it. (Interpreting Health Benefits and Risks is probably the most salient one that demonstrates the puny value of most medical interventions, and you can check out the blog associated with it). Most who study this issue estimate that about 9% of our health is determined by what doctors do for us, and most of that is in the realm of life-saving procedures in the setting of an emergency.
What reduced life expectancy during that time was our ability to save the lives of young people through a massive reduction in infant mortality, better treatment of pregnancy, and stemming infections in children. Immunizations, antibiotics, basic hygiene, and keeping pregnant women and kids alive were about 99.9% of the reasons we’re living longer now. You save a bunch of lives of people who are 0-5 years old, and—given that those people now may live an additional 70+ years on average—you’ll raise the life expectancy dramatically. You save the lives of people who are 80 years old, and you’ll hardly make a dent in overall life expectancy. I hope that logic is easy enough to follow; it’s really just 4th grade math.
Here’s how it works. If you have 1000 people in the country, half live to 20 years old and half to 80 years old, then life expectancy is 50 years old. If suddenly a disease hits by which all of the oldest people in society (those over 80) die a year sooner on average than they would have, the life expectancy drops to 49 years, a reduction of one year. If, however, due to infectious disease prevention, the 20-year-old people live to 50, overall life expectancy increases to 65 years old, an increase of 15 years. This is how life expectancy rises and falls; it has to do with young people dying and living mostly, with a tiny contribution from changes in the elderly community.
So, let’s look at COVID.
Estimates from around the world show that over 90% of COVID deaths occur in the very old, and that about 70-80% of COVID deaths occur in people who are so frail that they are felt to have had less than 6 months to live even before COVID took their lives. My experience on the front lines has been exactly that. We cared for hundreds of our elderly patients with COVID but, other than a few, almost all who died of COVID were very frail and at the end of their lives. In fact, with most of the deaths, families chose not to treat them with our very effective medicines, as most were already on hospice or immediately put on hospice.
I don’t want to minimize the tragedy of COVID. For frail elders, it was a horrific infection beyond what any of us have ever seen. And much of the fault of that was due to our feckless policies designed to stem infection (masks, temperature checks, weekly testing of employees, all of which were ineffective), rather than focusing on meaningful interventions (like daily rapid testing and viable treatments, none of which Fauci or the CDC advocated). But, regardless, the bottom line is that COVID killed a lot of elders whose life expectancy was not shortened by very much. For those people, plus the spattering of young people who died, to have caused the entire population of the US to have had a 1.5-year reduction in life expectancy is mathematically impossible and verges on the precipice of absurdity. That anyone can even suggest such a thing should cause us to question their sanity, intelligence, and motives!
Using our example from above, even if we assume that on average the older people inflicted with COVID died a year sooner than they would have otherwise, that will barely move the life-expectancy curve. In 2020 COVID cost the lives of 500,000 Americans in a population of 328 million people. That means that 1.5/1000 Americans died of COVID. For these 1.5 people with COVID to have caused a 1.5 year drop in life expectancy of the 1000 total people in the population, each of those 1.5 would have had to have had a drop in life by 1000 years. I mean, COVID is bad, but really, that is absurd! Given that most of the people who died of COVID are elderly and likely on average a year drop in their life expectancy, then that means that COVID deaths perhaps dropped life expectancy for the entire US population by less than a day. Sorry, but a disease that preys on and kills elderly people, most of whom have a limited life span ahead of them, and that killed 1/600 of the population, doesn’t explain even a fraction of the drop we saw in 2020. Even if all 500,000 deaths were in young people, which they aren’t, it wouldn’t come close to explaining our nations horrific deaths in the past year. 4th grade math!
Clearly, our COVID experts and journalists and politicians skipped 4th grade math and jumped right to the next math class: How to manipulate numbers to scare a lot of people and make it seem feasible.
What the misleading and clearly fallacious “vital statistics” report isn’t telling us, what the CDC is keeping under wraps for now, what Dr. Fauci and Jake Tapper never want to discuss as they rant on and on about “COVID, COVID, and nothing other than COVID,” is what David Leonhardt hinted at. A lot of young people are dying. They’re not dying of COVID, but of the suffocating life-altering oppressive quarantine we have shoved down everyone’s throats to curb COVID deaths. The school closings and total closure of everything that makes kids tick. The shut-down of our economy. The loss of communal activities. The incessant atmosphere of fear that the press has draped (and continues to drape) on us. The end of holidays and travel. The reduction of our lives to a daily counting exercise: how many cases, where are the surges, how may are vaccinated, over and over and over again. People don’t matter anymore. Just COVID particles. Just counting cases and vaccinations and surges.
So, yes, many people died of COVID, most of whom were old, and that did trickle down life expectancy by a day or two. And likely (if my and so many of my colleagues’ experiences are indicative of what is occurring across the country) many older people locked up and masked died from the never-ending quarantine, which also trickled down life expectancy by a few days given their very large numbers. So, about a week of the 1.5 years of dropped life expectancy can likely be ascribed to COVID.
The rest of the drop is because we are slaughtering young people through our “cure.” And they’re dying in large numbers, far larger numbers than what we’re seeing with COVID deaths. They’re dying of suicide, drugs, depression. They’re dying, as David Leonhardt insinuates, from “deaths of despair.” These deaths are not being tracked accurately by the CDC or any other national agency. These deaths are not considered significant by Dr. Fauci and Rachel Maddow or Jake Tapper. To them, every excess death in the era of COVID has to be from COVID. It just has to be! Their myopic eyes can’t see reality. They don’t realize that it’s not COVID that has shoved down the life expectancy curve so dramatically. It’s them. The architects of our failed and deadly COVID policies, the people who won’t let this go and who scare people day and night, are the ones who are instigating the slaughter. They are far more lethal and infectious than the pandemic that they talk about day and night.
That, perhaps, is the greatest tragedy of COVID and how we all think about COVID. The press, our doctors, our politicians, the CDC are all unwilling to tease apart the deaths caused by COVID from the deaths caused by our response to COVID. In our new book, Understanding COVID risks, a picture is worth 1,000 words, Erik Rifkin and I spend a large part of our discussion doing just that. We make it clear that with any medical intervention there are risks of the disease a doctor is treating, and then there are risks of the treatment. If we lump the two together and ascribe all the risks to the disease, then we’ll never understand the implications of our treatment.
And that’s COVID in a nutshell. By declaring that every bad outcome is “caused by COVID,” by tweaking numbers to obscure the devastating impact of a brutal unending quarantine on human beings, our leaders have and continue to deceive our nation while burying their own culpability for the brutal killing spree they instigated.
Unless we open our eyes, unless enough Americans realize that it’s time to yank themselves free from Jake Tapper’s and Anthony Fauci’s leash of deadly deception, unless we are smart and brave enough to see what we are doing to people and to society as we insist on stamping out every COVID particle that trickles in the air, then the deaths will continue to mount. Deaths from the cure, not from COVID. Deaths caused by people, not by disease.
Maybe the 1.5 year drop wasn't accurate. Maybe they used some complex modeling formula that exaggerated the impact of deaths in the elderly and minimized that of deaths in the young. But if common sense and 4th grade math are applied to that number, then we should all be terrified. Drops like that don't come often. And they don't come from events like COVID, which wiped out statistically 0% of the population under the age of 40, compared to the 1918 flu that wiped out 10% of all young people and did drop life expectancy dramatically and understandably. Either the 1.5 year drop is a scare tactic from the COVID fanatics, or it's a tocsin that our cure is worse than the disease.