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Lessons from the Lockdown—Why Are So Many Fewer Children Dying?
Originally Published as a White Paper from Health Choice
“One very clear change that has received publicity is that public health officials are bemoaning the sharp decline in infant vaccinations as parents are not taking their infants into pediatric offices for their regular well‐baby checks. In the May 15 issue of the CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), a group of authors from the CDC and Kaiser Permanente reported a sharp decline in provider orders for vaccines as well as a decline in pediatric vaccine doses administered.  These declines began in early march, around the time infant deaths began declining.”
Covid19 is a serious public health issue, but the breathless reporting among the media of positive tests and an ever‐rising death toll does little to instruct us about the true nature of the virus and the unprecedented steps taken to prevent its impact. As in many complex and pervasive health phenomena, there are many ways to measure health effects, but in our view the proper measure of impact is not a narrow or intermediate metric, but rather total health outcomes. In the case of a pandemic virus affecting large populations and where the immediate concern is sharp increases in deaths, the best measure of outcomes is not a selective measure of deaths somehow attributed to the disease but instead is deaths from all causes. For perspective, these deaths must be compared to historical death rates from all causes in prior years (Percent of Expected Deaths). As we will show, a balanced view of the broader American Covid19 experience demonstrates both the scale and variability of its negative outcomes in older American, especially the elderly, but also some unexpected positives. Surprisingly, U.S. mortality rates have declined among young people during the lockdown, especially among infants. These trends have gone largely unnoticed and remain unexplained.
Death rates from all causes vary widely and somewhat predictably. The most pronounced variation occurs by age cohort (most deaths occur in the elderly) and by time of year and to a lesser extent by geography. All‐cause deaths are cyclical, commonly rising in the winter months and “flu season” and then falling to lower levels as warmer weather arrives. To the extent that death rates vary by region, this is mostly a result of differences in the age mix of residents. In the case of Covid19, death rates are not yet known to be cyclical but they do vary significantly by age and geography.
In the analysis that follows we have examined the evidence on total death rates by geography (mostly by state), by age group and by week (and flu season). We have extracted eight main lessons. Some of these are part of the ongoing conversation around Covid19; others are unexpected or at least have not been widely circulated. Why this discrepancy? Since the infectious disease establishment has controlled the “pandemic” narrative, the variance between this evidence and conventional wisdom is largely driven by longstanding bias and error patterns among the experts in that community.
Many states actually saw lower than expected deaths during the period. To be sure, an excess death rate of 5% for the entire U.S. is considerable but also far short of the apocalyptic narrative the pandemic has received.
Greater‐than‐expected death rates were heavily concentrated in the Northeastern corridor. New York City and its surrounding area, including New Jersey, New York State (although possibly not upstate New York), Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland and the District of Columbia have so far comprised 6 of top 8 jurisdictions with excess all‐cause deaths. New York City was hit especially hard. In a typical spring, New York City could expect 700‐800 all‐cause deaths per week. From mid‐ March to mid‐May, that number spiked sharply, by ten times that amount, reaching over 7500 deaths in the peak week ending April 11.
Deaths in infants and children occur at a higher rate in minority groups.  So the reduction in childhood deaths during the lockdowns has meant that the lives of black and Hispanic infants and children have been saved at a higher rate.