What Went Wrong During the Pandemic

We were swindled, fooled, bamboozled, and lied to during the pandemic about the value of masking, closures, and things like social distancing. It hurt us. Understanding how badly we failed ourselves is not only an inevitable part of the “told you so” process, but more importantly, a lesson for next time. Ask the Swedes.

Sweden had zero excess deaths. The U.S. had the most excess deaths of all nations. New York had more than Florida. That’s the whole story right there in a handful of words if you understand it.

The key element of misdirection in the American swindle was case counts, those running numbers on all the screens telling how many Americans had tested positive. If you really still wonder, it looks like some 60 percent of us had some flavor of Covid during the pandemic period, most of us with mild (i.e., like a head cold) or no symptoms. How high the numbers went in your neck of the woods depended a lot on how much testing was going on, as obviously more testing equaled more “cases.” For me, with a very mild set of symptoms all clearly in line with Covid, I never even bothered to test. My spouse, with no symptoms, never tested. Both of us fell outside the statistical scary race to ever larger numbers.

Not that it mattered because case count told us nothing but to be scared. Very similar for hospitalizations; useful for work load management, but often just as indicative of changing medical protocols. The initial thoughts were Covid-positive people needed to be hospitalized and put on respirators, until soon enough it was realized the infections associated with long-term respirator use were killing more people than the virus. Protocols changed, hospitalization numbers went down. That stat, too, did not really matter. Since Covid proved fatal primarily to the elderly (below) many hospitalizations began with something else to end with Covid. My own father suffered a blinding, massive stroke, went into hospital, and caught Covid there, to officially die of respiratory failure. I’m not sure if he counted as a statistic or not.

Now the bad news. Modern medicine cannot cure death. Everybody dies. Most in America who don’t die earlier in accidents typically die once past the age of 77. In 2019 and 2020, heart disease and cancer each killed about double what Covid did. Each year about three million Americans die of one thing or another. So the only statistic that really matters then when talking about the roughly two years of the pandemic is “excess deaths,” deaths beyond the usual couple of million. Given the broad spread of Covid and its potential to be fatal, it becomes a valid assumption the excess deaths will be Covid deaths. Death is the only real measure of Covid’s impact because it is the only thing we can’t fix.

Sweden had zero excess deaths. The U.S. had the most excess deaths of all nations. New York had more than Florida. That’s the whole story right there in a handful of words if you understand it.

Sweden did very little in terms of halting work and school, or forcing masking and social distancing. The U.S., quite a bit more. Within the U.S. states known for their Covid “efforts,” particularly New York, had excess deaths worse than or similar to do-little Florida. An awful lot of effort and angst and secondary and tertiary and other collateral damage (addiction, suicide, unemployment, social unrest, failing grades) did very little to change very little. The U.S. had the highest excess death rate among all 11 countries in a Kaiser-run study.

And we were lied to. Writing in July 2020, the New York Times stated Sweden’s “decision to carry on in the face of the pandemic has yielded a surge of deaths without sparing its economy from damage. Sweden’s grim result — more death, and nearly equal economic damage — suggests that the supposed choice between lives and paychecks is a false one: failure to impose social distancing can cost lives and jobs at the same time.” Tsk, tsk, said the media. They’re still saying it. Despite Florida having only 148 excess deaths (per 100k) and New York showing 248, Politico’s May 1, 2022 headline read “Florida lost 70,000 people to Covid. It’s still not prepared for the next wave.”

Much as in Florida, Sweden allowed restaurants, gyms, shops, and most schools to stay open. People went to work, some masked, some not. That stood in contrast to the U.S., where by April 2020 the CDC recommended draconian lockdowns, throwing millions out of work and school. There’s plenty apples and oranges arguments. But they do not explain the disparity inside a particular U.S. state. Nor do they account for how excess deaths compares a country to itself and ignores national differences. If all you want is a locale with statistically low Covid deaths, look to the developing world where numbers are low because most people die of something else well before they reach the Covid danger zone of age 77 and older.

The U.S. is the only major western nation that still demands a negative Covid test for entry, including for its own citizens. The U.S. is the only nation where every Covid palliative, such as new anti-viral drugs to lessen the impact of a positive case, must be run through the gauntlet of Red-Blue politics via a social media-Late-Night-MSM feedback loop that for two years tried desperately to link anything remotely questionable to Candidate Trump, down to repeated death charms raised in the MSM against “Red” events like motorcycle gatherings and Repub rallies. Despite never delivering on the promised viral load, they retain the moniker super spreader event. You’d expect most everyone in Florida to be dead by now if all you listened to was CNN.

Besides blowing the response broadly and leaving our economy in shambles, America’s Covid strategy steadfastly refused to acknowledge the age disparity in excess deaths. Globally the vast masses of deaths were in persons age 77 and older. Among Covid-exposed individuals, people in their 70s have twice the mortality of those in their 60s, and 3,000 times higher than for children (a study found no increased mortality in Sweden in those under 70. The U.S. actually had fewer than normal excess deaths in kids ages 0-5 then in non-Covid years.) But everyone was made to wear a mask, school kids in Hawaii still must, and in New York elderly Covid patients were returned to their nursing homes by a governor who once had a shot at being America’s next president.

The data was known from early days of the pandemic, assembled out of pre-social distancing China. Death rates for Chinese elderly (not social distancing) and American elderly (social distancing) were very similar. Swedish intensive care admission rates showed sharp declines after early pandemic peaks despite a lack of shutdowns. Age-specific solutions were needed for a virus that was age-specific in taking lives, but we instead went for the broadest shut downs across the United States with no regard to collateral affect. We ignored or over-looked the data. We are paying for that mistake now. Savings lives or saving the economy? Both, please. Ask the Swedes.

The what — America’s pandemic response was just wrong across the board — is clear by the numbers. The why, attributable to “politics,” it is an international shame. But the other reasons for failure are equally shameful. American’s underlying health is worse than most developed countries where some form of socialized medicine exists. This is all exacerbated by income inequality, high rates of poverty, and the maddening levels of obesity, diabetes, and “deaths of despair” which plague our underclass. Blacks were hit harder by Covid than whites. The poor were hit harder than the well-to-do. It is more evil Malthusian than Darwinian that the Haves had not Covid and the Have Nots had it. Whatever we did, masking or not, lockdowns or not, would have suffered because of this fundamental deficiency in our system.

For next time, there are two elephants in the room. One would be to avoid politicizing the public healthcare response and truly rely on science to dictate societal actions. The joke that if Trump had recommended oxygen to breath MSNBC would have empaneled experts to demand carbon dioxide is so close to true I had to check for it on Wikipedia. The other elephant is to come to grips with the sad reality the pandemic impacted harder here than anywhere else in the developed world because we as a nation steadfastly refuse to chose from the menu of ways to provide broad-based healthcare, especially preventive care. Fixing the next pandemic means fixing America.

 

 

 

 

Related Articles:




Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

5 Comments

  • jpb on said:

    Thanks for the insightful piece as usual. I discovered you recently on the internet and it’s been a pleasure reading your work/listening to your interviews; can’t wait for more.

  • John Poole on said:

    America has solved the obesity problem. It’s no longer a problem- in fact obesity is something to celebrate! Many advertisements for a range of products today feature joyful and content obese characters. Out the window goes over eating (gluttony). A 6’4″ 360 lb 14 year old kid fatally slips out of a jerry-rigged harness and it is everyone’s fault except the parents who clearly encouraged his obesity while hinting that the youngster was destined for NFL offensive lineman fame and big money. The kid had an obligation to die at age 40 of suicide from a jostled brain or obesity as long as it meant he could buy his parents and relatives impressive homes. Greed is good! Obesity is good! (for certain causes of course)

  • Rich Bauer on said:

    “ One would be to avoid politicizing the public healthcare response and truly rely on science to dictate societal actions.”

    And I thought Trump “it’s like the flu” was delusional.

  • David G on said:

    “Most in America who don’t die earlier in accidents typically die once past the age of 77.”

    The unlucky ones die twice.

  • Rich Bauer on said:

    Modern medicine can’t cure death, but putting your life in the hands of an idiot like Trump can hasten it.

    National Public Radio examined deaths from COVID-19 per 100,000 people in roughly 3,000 counties across the country from May 2021, a time when most Americans could obtain vaccines. Those living in counties that voted 60% or higher for Trump in 2020 had 2.26 times the death rate of counties that voted in comparable percentages for Biden, NPR reported.
    Counties with a higher share of Trump votes had even higher mortality rates.

    Cults usually commit suicide AFTER their leader dies. In the case of Trump, does brain dead count?

Post a new comment

Your email will not be published.
Submitting comment...