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Innumeracy and COVID


Here’s a popular right wing Twitter figure (she’s the wife of the EIC Executive Editor of the Washington Examiner Magazine, not Josh Mandel btw):

I would love to quiz Bethany Mandel on what she thinks it means for people to live “well beyond life expectancy.”

What she’s really saying of course is that most of these people would have died very soon from something else so who cares, plus who can say if they really died from COVID anyway given that they were so old and sick?

Let’s do a little math.

As of yesterday, about 213,000 people under the age of 65 had officially died of COVID in the USA, although the true figure is undoubtedly quite a bit higher (see this really well done story about the social and political forces that lead to the systematic undercounting of COVID deaths, especially in rural/red America).

This includes about 36,000 deaths of people in their 40s, 15,000 deaths of people in their 30s, 5,000 deaths of people between 18-29, and 700 deaths of children.

I used Social Security actuarial life tables to calculate how many lost years of life those 213,000 deaths produced, and the answer is approximately 6.4 million years of life. And again, this only includes people under 65, since old people dying don’t count in MAGAland.

As to whether people are dying “with COVID” rather than “from COVID” — this is a favorite right wing talking point — I’ve been tracking this very closely for more than a year now, and although final figures aren’t going to be available for a few weeks, it appears that around 6.85 million Americans died in 2020 and 2021. If we take the average increase in the total annual number of deaths in the USA in the 20 years between 2000 and 2019, and extrapolate that rate to 2020 and 2021, we should have seen about 5.79 million deaths in the USA over the last two years.

Not that facts mean anything to these people of course.

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