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# The COVID future in America

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This week marks exactly two years since COVID began to enter the public consciousness in the USA. For example, on February 3, 2020, the Trump administration declared a public health emergency because of the virus.

How many Americans who would be alive today have died as a consequence of the pandemic? The answer turns on the demographic concept of excess deaths. An excess death is a death that would not have happened but for the intervention of the relevant variable.

Now as our many very dear right wing friends in this country have been pointing out from the very beginning of the pandemic, not all COVID deaths are excess deaths in this sense, since some people who died because of the pandemic over the past two years would have died anyway, even without it. It’s true that by far the biggest risk factor for death from COVID is age: about three quarters of the people who have died because of the virus have been 65 or older, and slightly more than half have been 75 or older.

Further complications include that not all COVID deaths are detected and categorized as such, and that the pandemic has spillover effects, affecting mortality from other causes, and in both directions (For example, the number of flu deaths in the USA fell to almost nothing in 2021).

Here’s a straightforward calculation method that I’m employing in this post:

(1) Calculate the average change in the annual mortality total in the USA in the twenty years prior to the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. The answer to this question is that annual mortality grew by an average of .91% per year over these two decades. (Annual mortality almost always increases slightly because of the increasing size and average age of the American population. This increase is usually ameliorated, however, by the fact that the annual age-adjusted mortality rate almost always declines. It declined from 869 to 715 per 100,000 between 2000 and 2019).

(2) Calculate how many people would have died in the USA in 2020 and 2021 if annual morality trends had remained what they were prior to the pandemic. The answer to that question is that we would have seen approximately 5,788,000 million deaths.

(3) Calculate how many people died in the USA in 2020 and 2021. The answer to this question is still technically approximate, since mortality totals for 2021 have not been finalized, but based on historical trends we can estimate that around 99% to 99.5% of all deaths in the USA in 2021 have been recorded by the CDC at this point. Thus we can estimate that approximately 6,839,000 Americans died in the USA in 2020 and 2021

(4) Calculate how many people have died from COVID in the first 34 days of 2022, calculate how many of those are statistically excess deaths at this point — essentially all of them, because almost none of these people would have died over the past 34 days if not for COVID — and then assume that the proportion of excess COVID deaths over the past 34 days to excess total deaths over the past 34 days has remained the same as it was over the previous two calendar years..

This gives us a total of 1,138,000 excess deaths in the USA from February 3, 2020 through February 3, 2022. Now this number might be off by one or two percent in either direction for various reasons, but it’s really close.

In other words, there are more than 1.1 million Americans who have died in the past two years, who would be alive today if not for the pandemic. (An interesting side question is what this total would be without the vaccines. I would imagine it would be at least doubled at this point).

Now what I find really interesting in a grim way is that the Republican party, at the national, state, and local level, has become almost completely indifferent to this situation. For them, any serious ongoing attempts to ameliorate the pandemic are unwarranted, because it’s just another seasonal infectious disease, like the flu. (If not for the COVID pandemic it’s likely that the flu would have caused something along the lines of 65,000 total excess deaths in the USA over the past two years. 65,000 is a smaller number than 1,138,000).

What will happen going forward? It’s practically certain that other variants of the virus will continue to arise, although they will have a constantly shrinking immunologically naive base to infect, as ever larger percentages of the population are either vaccinated or previously infected or both.

But will Republicans be OK with 560,000 excess deaths in the USA in 2022, assuming that the forthcoming waves end up having the same average effect as those over the previous two years? The answer is obviously yes, they will be OK with that, and they will continue to be OK with that even when it’s no longer to their political advantage to prolong the pandemic.

That’s because the pandemic has been so politicized at this point that it’s an article of faith in the Republican cult that it’s No Big Deal, and that vaccinations are either No Big Deal or a (((Plot))) of some sort, and that masks and any other mitigation measures are unnecessary, because this is just like the flu, basically. (A lot of this is tied up with the kind of deep fatalism found in the cruder versions of evangelical Christianity; i.e., people die because it’s God’s will/it’s “their time” etc. In addition, these versions of Christianity are fundamental hurdles to any understanding of or belief in statistics, which is why a big item on the agenda of revenant Christo-fascism is to just get rid of government collation of statistics altogether).

In fact we’ll be lucky if all that happens is that all vaccine mandates, not just for COVID, are rolled back in various states, as opposed to the national level. The worst-case scenario is that the COVID vaccine will be made illegal by President Greene’s executive order, which will be carried out by CDC chairman Berenson (kidding/not kidding).