More people are dying in the U.S, but it’s not from coronavirus

Today at the age of 41, tony-award winning broadway star, Nick Cordero succumbed to COVID-19. 

Cordero had been experiencing severe complications from the illness ever since being diagnosed back in March. The actor had his leg amputated, was placed on a ventilator, and drifted in and out of conscientious before passing on this morning. 

An incline of young otherwise healthy critical coronavirus cases like Cordero’s makes it hard to cling to narratives established in the early months of our pandemic.

Despite received wisdom, the elderly are not the only demographic susceptible to COVID-19 fatalities. 

The immune-compromised is not the only demographic susceptible to severe manifestations of COVID-19. And the mutations presently infecting every sector of  American life by reason of COVID-19 will survive long after a vaccine passes clinical trials.

New findings suggest SARS-CoV-2 is erupting a nationwide chain reaction of sorrow and sickness.

A team of researchers at Virginia Commonwealth and Yale University recently concluded that COVID-19 is responsible for 65 percent of fatalities in the United States. Between March 1st and April 25th, the U.S. experienced a collective 87,001 excess deaths.

Some states have been disproportionately affected by rising death statistics. In 14 states, more than 50% of excess deaths were attributed to underlying causes not directly related to COVID-19.

The five states with the most COVID-19 deaths additionally experienced dramatic increases in mortalities from non-respiratory underlying causes, including diabetes (96%), heart diseases (89%), Alzheimer’s disease (64%), and cerebrovascular diseases (35%).

Deaths reported in New York City as a result of heart disease and diabetes both increased by more than 350%. 

The number of publicly reported deaths from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) may underestimate the pandemic’s death toll. Such estimates rely on provisional data that are often incomplete and may omit undocumented deaths from COVID-19,” the authors wrote in the new paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.  “Moreover, restrictions imposed by the pandemic (eg, stay-at-home orders) could claim lives indirectly through delayed care for acute emergencies, exacerbations of chronic diseases, and psychological distress (eg, drug overdoses).”

COVID-19 might not be directly responsible for all of the excess deaths recorded in the new report, but it is almost certainly influencing known predictors. 

Saying nothing of the overwhelmed hospitals unable to adequately care for patients suffering from various underlying illnesses, mass-employment, isolation, and an oppressive news cycle has likely surged unhealthy habits, like immoderate drinking, smoking, poor dieting, and hygiene neglect. 

If you recall, before coronavirus pirated academic attention, suicides were already rising alongside a devastating opioid crisis.

“A third possibility, the one we’re quite concerned about, is indirect mortality — deaths caused by the response to the pandemic,” explains one of the study’s authors, Steven H. Woolf, MD, MPH1 who is also the director emeritus of VCU’s Center on Society and Health. “People who never had the virus may have died from other causes because of the spillover effects of the pandemic, such as delayed medical care, economic hardship or emotional distress.”

With one hand, it’s important to grasp the despair caused by the coronavirus crisis. With the other, it’s just as important to sift through the positive outcomes that will emerge once it’s behind us. 

Like the rise of the tomato that followed Italy’s devastating plague in the 17th century or the increased sanitation mandates authored by the yellow fever epidemic that overtook Philidelphia, lighting fires in shadows is what humans do best.  

In times of crisis, pie in the sky aspirations, all of a sudden seem less unprocurable.

Already we’re seeing positive incremental changes made to our health care system. Working-class Americans are reading medical journals they didn’t know existed six months ago. Communities disrupted by disease and economic turmoil are being supported by local organizations and policy prescriptions. 

Patterned increases in mortality from comorbidities and COVID-19 transmissions, themselves made America more vulnerable to aggressive coronavirus outbreaks. 

If nothing else, we can hope for a meaningful alliance between the medical community and elected officials to ensure that our first world nation never yields to an inanimate alien ever again.