The recent COVID-19 scare

By Edward Achorn

My thanks to Andrew Bostom, M.D., a Brown associate professor, internist, and epidemiologist, for this latest chart of national COVID-19 deaths.

The revised numbers do display that, after deaths fell for 10 straight weeks, America underwent a slight and unnerving uptick earlier this month. The raw numbers, as of July 27, are HERE.

The recent turnaround prompted near-hysteria in the news media, leading to new and economically damaging lockdowns. Americans were terrified.

But the overall picture still seems encouraging. The “surge” in deaths in the South appears to have leveled off. Hospitals have not been overrun. Thank God.

Though Florida has about 2 million more people than New York, it has suffered 26,000-plus fewer deaths from COVID-19. New York City has a huge number of poor people — many with health problems — who were virtually locked down in packed apartments by government order. Pandemics historically spread in such conditions, and the state became an exceptionally deadly breeding ground for the disease. The government arguably made things worse by ordering COVID-19 patients into nursing homes, where the disease killed off huge numbers of vulnerable elderly people.

Florida does not appear to be on that track. Its brief rise in deaths on a much smaller scale seems to have peaked, and the numbers (by date of death) are declining. Let us hope that holds as more data comes in.

America seems especially susceptible to COVID-19 for a reason not often discussed. It has an unusually high rate of morbidly obese people. Overweight people with health problems are among those most susceptible to COVID-19.

The panic is understandable, perhaps. The government has made everyone jittery by embarking on an untested program of locking down businesses and denying people rights that were supposed to be protected by the Constitution. Many orders have been issued that seem arbitrary, or worse (crowds at casinos are OK; church services are not, etc.). The science on the benefits of lock downs and even masks is still evolving.

Another problem is that hospitals are reconsidering deaths from days, weeks or months ago, and attaching a COVID-19 label to them whenever possible. That is because the government rewards them with taxpayer dollars for each COVID-19 death. The process is called “harvesting.”

Unfortunately, when old deaths are thrown in with new totals, it scares people. They are led to believe that deaths are spiking dramatically.

Again, the fears are understandable. But the public should know that these death figures are highly misleading. A truer picture (like the one above) is only possible when each death is assigned to the date it occurred.

I hope such charts as the one Dr. Bostom just shared will help to ease the panic and permit us to put COVID-19 into perspective.

The worst still does seem to be over. While we should continue to take precautions, it remains wise to ask whether the “cure” is becoming worse than the disease.

(Read Edward Achorn’s books about American history.)


  1. I wouldn’t call the uptick unnerving. We had to see something with the number of cases. But the basic point is well taken. The Infection Fatality Rate (IFR) is looking more and more like that of a bad flu.

    Nobody likes a bad flu, but we don’t push our businesses over the cliffs like lemmings in the event of one.

    The toughest thing for return to normative life is remains bars and restaurants. I feel badly for all in that industry, but it does seem to remain a vector of concern, compared to many other activities which should raise as much concern, like going to the beach (or a protest, short of molatov cocktails).


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