Virginia: 4,500 “Excess” Deaths This Year, Only Half from COVID-19

by James A. Bacon

It’s good to see that the left-leaning Virginia Mercury making the same observation as Bacon’s Rebellion about the unmeasured consequences of society’s reaction to the COVID-19 epidemic. Research from Virginia Commonwealth University shows than an additional 4,500 Virginians died between March and August over the number that would have been predicted from past years’ experience.

That’s an increase of 16 percent, according to Dr. Steven Woolf, the lead author on the paper and director emeritus of VCU’s Center on Society and Health. But only 52 percent of those excess deaths in Virginia during the COVID-19 pandemic were attributed to the virus itself as either the underlying cause or a contributing factor. …

Woolf said the most recent analysis — which builds on an earlier paper looking at excess deaths across the country in March and April — bolsters concerns that the pandemic is also causing a wave of secondary deaths due to ongoing disruptions in everyday life.

Deaths from Alzheimer’s disease are up. Child vaccination rates are down. Fewer people are going to the emergency room. Opioid deaths are up.

Said Woolf: ““Various hospitals and clinicians are reporting delays in patients coming in for chronic illnesses. People were slow to respond to acute emergencies because they were scared of the virus. And conversely, there were increased admissions for drug overdoses.”

Bacon’s bottom line: The lesson is simple but cannot be repeated often enough. We cannot let an exclusive focus on COVID-19 “confirmed cases” or even “deaths” drive public policy. We must consider the downstream effects of the shutdown on public health and economic health.

The Wall Street Journal reports today that there is a strong link between the severity of economic lockdowns and lost economy activity. Southern states that opened their economies earlier than other states have have experienced significantly lower unemployment rates than states that stuck with longer, harsher lockdowns.

Social scientists have demonstrated a strong link between unemployment and public health and mental health. The adverse consequences of lockdowns are diffused, delayed and hard to measure, but they are very real.

Woolf told the Virginia Mercury that Virginia’s approach — lifting restrictions gradually — has been fairly successful at limiting the number of COVID-19 and excess deaths. But the article did not discuss the impact of shutdowns on Virginia’s economy, schools, or longer-term public health. We need to take an approach that is rational, fact-based and, often lost in the discussion, wholistic.

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11 responses to “Virginia: 4,500 “Excess” Deaths This Year, Only Half from COVID-19”

  1. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    Life is a series of trade offs. Who knew? The message will be ignored at least until we’re past the election. Let’s hope that when the temptation to clamp down does overcome the Governor’s Office, the response is limited to where the problem really is — social gatherings, public and private. Total lockdowns, closing off retail again, closing gyms, those were clearly of little use the first time around. Unfortunately, we may be back in a mode of trying to manage the hospital capacity.

  2. We need to know if this is specific to Virginia or not.
    If specific to Virginia, why? Did we under-count COVID deaths, eg: in nursing homes? We need to know demographics of the excess deaths.

    Lot’s of things going on. One thing Virginia did right was keep the ABC stores open. In Pa. not me but a very elderly “friend” got really sick and we think it was probably alcohol withdrawal due to closure of the liquor stores there during the lockdown. Our “friend” is doing much better now but needed our close care for several months to recover (from the new medicines etc.).

    Not to mention complete lack of social/driving activity for the very elderly during the lockdown. Potential setback for independent living of many elderly.

  3. Baconator with extra cheese Avatar
    Baconator with extra cheese

    How about the future fallout?
    With schools in homestudy mode just about every kid struggling will fall so far behind catching up will prove impossible. These kids won’t have manual labor jobs to fall back on as we open the borders. Those depressed labor wages will hurt them the most.
    So let’s look forward to the huge crime spike we’ll see in,,, say 2 to the next 20 years. And furthering the “need” for more and more handouts. I wil bet violent crime doubles in cities and pops up in small towns nationwide.
    And people think there is inequity now?…. just wait and see. I would bet this will push inner city black and poor rural white kids down further than ever hsitorically if this education disruption doesn’t end soon. But it’ll be ok because they will blame it on Orangeman-Bad for a generation. And millions more will be dependent on government programs for life.
    If you live in a city and have the means to flee I would do so now…. unless you have enough money to live in a gated community.

  4. LarrytheG Avatar

    If there is a higher death rate due to unemployment, we should be able to validate it with data before the pandemic by looking at death rates in the country that already had high unemployment.

    The other thing is that people who lost their health insurance, ALSO will delay going to the hospital so add fear of the virus on top of that.

    There is no doubt that with all the impacts of the pandemic, that we’re going to see “studies” out the wazoo.

    And some of them are going to be agenda-driven and done by organizations who hew to a point of view.

    We need to look to objective studies from people that have no ax to grind and then others that replicate. The tendancy to look for stuff we prefer and ignore, reject the rest of science is also a problem these days.

    1. We need to look to objective studies from people that have no ax to grind and then others that replicate.

      Translation: We need to look to studies whose conclusions LarryG finds agreeable. Otherwise, he will subject them to endless demands for ever-higher standards of methodological perfection.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Nope. First, look at who is doing the study. Are they unaffilated with a think tank? What other work have they published. Is there study in line with other science?

        What we have these days are a bunch of right-wing outfits that publish biased and bogus stuff and call it “study”. They’re free to do that and do – but don’t be stupid about believing it. Check what else they have done.

        Pay attention to what and how the Cigarette makers and fossil fuel industry has “planted” “studies” that were anything but “science”.

        Trust the folks who are NOT with think tanks – left or right and look at what else they have “studied”. Do they have a reputation of producing objective and unbiased studies?

        Yes, it does have to do with how one views science these days, sorry to say.

        1. djrippert Avatar

          “Yes, it does have to do with how one views science these days, sorry to say.”

          How does Ralph Northam view science? How does he find it scientifically valid to have Henrico County Public Schools closed to in-person teaching while Chesterfield County Public Schools open up?

          Lefties love science until that science interferes with the goals of one of their protected classes – in this case … teachers. Then it’s “science be damned”, let the kids suffer.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            Chesterfield is not full time in-person. Henrico is virtual.

            Ya’ll were hard on Northam early on for one-size-fits-all and now you’re on him for leaving it up to the school district.

            Which is it?

            How is Maryland doing it?

            You want to focus on one district and one Governor. I’m asking if that is a fair and objective way to go about it?

            Is Northam really that different from Hogan?

            Why can’t you guys be more fair and objective instead of so biased on this?

            Across the country – there are a lot of variations on the schools. Each district is trying to do right for their situation. When they do that – you guys attack them if they don’t full open in-person.

            Why? A LOT of schools across the country are NOT in-person yet – as well as many Courts and many government meetings.

            Yet, that does not dissuade you from your rants…

            totally disengenous and bogus.

          2. Baconator with extra cheese Avatar
            Baconator with extra cheese

            Larry, Henrico’s northern neighbor Hanover is in session fulltime… have been since day 1.
            Have you heard about them in the news? Probably not since they have had few problems. Doesn’t fit the prefered narrative thus doesn’t make news.

          3. LarrytheG Avatar

            So Northam lets them open full time? Holy Moly. How did that happen?

            I trust Hanover to do what they think is right. I also trust Spotsylvania, Stafford, Henrico and Fairfax to do the same.

            Basically I trust the folks that run the schools to be responsible and do the right thing and I’ll not accuse any of them of doing things because of political reasons.

            Families had roughly two weeks to opt-in to virtual or face-to-face instruction to meet a July 31 deadline. A minority of Hanover’s roughly 17,000 students, about 40 percent, choose to learn online, according to an HCPS spokesperson.

            The reopening next week will come as the Chickahominy Health District, which includes Hanover, is reporting increases in testing positivity rates in-line with the state average – rising from around four and five percent through August to nearly 7.8% this week. The seven day average statewide is 7.7% as of Thursday. The school district has also seen a few coronavirus cases in recent months, including a student enrolled in a summer program and a number of employees.

            Teachers and a parent interviewed by VPM expressed concerns that the county plan, which says “every effort will be made to maintain student distance with a goal of 6 feet,” will not ensure adequate social distancing.

            Chris Whitley, HCPS’s spokesperson, acknowledged it will be a challenge. In an email, he wrote this “is why all students and staff are required to wear a cloth face covering at all times, except while eating or drinking.” This requirement goes farther than state guidelines, which suggest cloth coverings.

            Students who opted for remote learning will attend a new virtual school: Hanover Online School. Teachers have been assigned to either Hanover Online or physical schools based on any health conditions, preferences, and student enrollment. Enrollment and teacher positions are binding until the semester ends in January,


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