Something uncanny happens when the government exaggerates the threat level of one particular virus and tells people they must stay home. People get scared and stay home … even when they are having a heart attack. A new study indicates that more people might have died at home from untreated heart attacks for fear of coming to hospitals than from coronavirus in Denver, Colorado. This would be yet another example of the man-made plague of lockdown and fear causing more deaths than the virus itself.
A group of doctors at Denver Health Medical Center led by Brian Stauffer were baffled by what many other hospitals have noticed across the world – that the number of people coming into emergency rooms for heart attacks plummeted during the lockdowns in late March and April. Rather than positing some voodoo explanation of coronavirus curing heart attacks, Stauffer’s teams observed an obvious anomaly in the data on emergency calls that gives away the culprit in this mystery.
On the one hand, the weekly activation of EMS calls by the Denver Health Paramedic Division, the only public ambulance service in the region, plummeted nearly by half during the shelter-in-place order between March 29 and April 11. On the other hand, the number of reported cardiac deaths at home were 2.2 times higher in 2020 compared with averaged historical controls over the same two-week period.
While this hypothesis needs further study, it doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out that the two observations work together. ER doctors were likely seeing fewer cardiac patients because people were scared to call 911 and come to hospitals after experiencing typical warning signs of the onset of a heart attack. In turn, a good number of those people likely died of heart attacks at home. There were 92 cardiac arrests at home during that period of time, 51 more than the recent average for a two-week period.
“It is interesting to note that the excess in OHCA (out of hospital cardiac arrests) was greater than the number of patients who died with COVID-19 diagnoses during the same time frame,” observed Stauffer et al.
A similar dichotomy was observed in Seattle, Washington, during the lockdown. In King County, Washington, commensurate with a 25% drop in 911 calls was a 10% increase in EMTs discovering people dead at home.
What’s the culprit for more people dying of heart attacks at home? The Denver study hypothesizes that the restriction on nonemergent procedures “may lead to delays in diagnosis and definitive treatment,” in addition to the fact that “patient fear of contracting COVID-19 while seeking care may lead to avoidance of lifesaving therapies.”
In other words, lockdown policies, along with the accompanying disproportionate fear that they induce, gave people the impression that coronavirus was a bigger threat than heart attacks. They responded in kind, with tragic outcomes. Stauffer advises that pending further study, “Providers should consider the unintended consequence of the pandemic response in the context of chronic and emergent cardiovascular disease.”
Even if the panic ceased today, we will still see long-term effects from the damage already done. In an interview with the Colorado Sun, Stauffer noted that although the cardiovascular patient volume is back up to normal levels, the patients appear to be sicker than usual. This likely portends more negative outcomes in the long run for heart patients thanks to the delayed care, in addition to those who actually died during the period of the shelter-in-place orders.
What’s so gut-wrenching is that even with all this collateral damage of unprecedentedly draconian policies, we’re not even saving any lives from the virus. The observations from the past few months demonstrate that the virus must achieve 15%-20% saturation in any given area and will do so regardless of human intervention and panic. The only difference we are seeing with human intervention is that countries like Sweden that chose not to panic avoided the excess man-made deaths, while we have chosen a path that created more deaths from lockdown and panic than from the virus.
The psychological factors are starkly revealed in a recent survey from Franklin Templeton. Researchers observe, “Americans still misperceive the risks of death from COVID-19 for different age cohorts–to a shocking extent.” They found from their survey that “Americans believe that people aged 44 and younger account for about 30% of total deaths; the actual figure is 2.7%” and that they overestimate the risk of death from COVID-19 for people aged 24 and younger by a factor of 50.”
Here is their thesis:
This misperception translates directly into a degree of fear for one’s health that for most people vastly exceeds the actual risk: we find that the share of people who are very worried or somewhat worried of suffering serious health consequences should they contract COVID-19 is almost identical across all age brackets between 25 and 64 years old, and it’s not far below the share for people 65 and older.
The discrepancy with the actual mortality data is staggering: for people aged 18-24, the share of those worried about serious health consequences is 400 times higher than the share of total COVID deaths; for those age 25-34 it is 90 times higher. The chart below truly is worth a thousand words:
Well, what happens if people are convinced to overestimate the threat of a virus by a factor of 100 or even 400 – and adjust their lives accordingly? They will prioritize futile efforts to avoid getting the virus at the risk of contracting other physical or mental ailments that are indeed 100 times more deadly for them.
COVID-19 poses a risk to a small portion of the population. But when our government and media treat it as a greater threat than any ailment known to man, that is not erring on the side of caution, but on the side of destruction.