According to the Centers for Disease Controls National Center for Health Statistics, life expectancy in the U.S. dropped 1.8 years from 2019 to 2020, the largest single-year drop since national statistics were made available in 1933. The U.S. totaled 3,383,729 registered deaths, more than 500,000 higher than the year before. And thats not even the worst statistic from the newly released mortality data.
Death rates for every age group 15 years and over increased from 2019 to 2020. The increase continues across men and women, regardless of race. However, rates sharply rose most among Black and Latino men.
While heart disease and cancer remained the leading causes of death in the U.S., COVID-19 took the third spot. The actual numbers could be worse than what the data reflects, according to public-health experts.
USA Today reported this week that, as the virus ripped across our health care infrastructure, it also exploited our outdated and decentralized data-tracking processes for recording deaths. USA Todays investigation uncovered that nearly one million more Americans died in 2020 and 2021.
Among the excess deaths, 195,000 could be untracked cases of COVID-19 due to the viruss symptoms being similar to complications from diseases such as asthma, diabetes, hypertension, and Alzheimers. It doesnt necessarily suggest malicious intent perpetrated by medical examiners and coroners juking the statistics, just a continuation of overwhelmed and overencumbered workers in the medical field.
Thankfully, with what we know so far about the omicron variant data from South Africa, this seems to be the least deadly variant so far, despite case counts peaking past previous spikes. Well have to see how it unfolds, and whether increased transmissibility despite lower severity translates to more overall hospitalizations and deaths.
But another crisis simmers below.
Fentanyl overdoses are now the number one killer among 18-45-year-olds. Suicidal ideation is at its highest rate on record among young people. And I cannot think of a single person on the national stage addressing that issue with the seriousness it deserves. This year, Ive seen more young men I grew up with pass from either suicide or drug overdose than any other previous year.
This has indirect links to the pandemic as well. A country devoting all its public-health resources to stopping viral spread is one that sacrifices attention to the ongoing opioid epidemic. And two years of isolation, depression, and trauma is clearly leading to a mental health crisis.
Were a sick country. But Id like to end on a different note.
Last summer, I read George Scialabbas hybrid essay/memoir How to Be Depressed. Unlike anything else on the subject, the solutions he proposes are political and economic ones, not just tweaks in the delivery of treatment. He points out that the successful assault on unions coincides with increased poverty and economic insecurity. But being in a strong union that allowed him to take time off when the disease took over, he said, saved his life.
Scialabba mentions Prospect co-founder Robert Reichs proposal to exempt the first $20,000 of income from the payroll tax, which would save 130 million American households an average of $5,000 a year. Five thousand dollars a year would save a lot of ordinary people a lot of grief, and incidentally fix the economy.
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