According to the US Census and the Department of Health and Human Services, approx 40 million people live in deep poverty and roughly 78% of those that do not live paycheck to paycheck. Poverty related deaths are estimated at roughly 2 million people per year in the US.
With 20 million additional people, 78% of which have no savings are now thrust into deep poverty. This is a plague far worse than the Coronavirus that could easily, based on existing economic factors not getting worse, lead to an additional 2,000,000 poverty related deaths in the US within the next year.
With the projected death toll of the Coronavirus at approx 66,000 and no cure available (meaning this is likely to be sustained year over year), the ratio of indirect poverty related deaths caused by the government response to the pandemic verses the direct deaths caused by the pandemic itself is 1000:33.
Let that sink in. For every thirty-three people who we lose to the virus, our collective response to the threat kills another 1000 people over the course of a year. While also causing an even larger portion of the population to develop health problems that would put them in risk groups for epidemic or pandemic diseases.
Now it goes without saying that the entire reason the government’s solution exists is to cover the governments own inadequacies in it’s ability to respond to a pandemic and shutting down the economy, thrusting people into poverty was it’s only viable solution to flatten the curve of the infection rate to stay within the existing capacity and subsequently prevent a higher death rate, which could have been catastrophically worse (e.g. it could have easily been an inverse model of 33:1000). While that remains a fact, it is important for everyone to understand that while social distancing can help flatten the curve, economic isolation exponentially increases the mortality rate of this pandemic at a catastrophic rate.
If the current economic trend continues, we will enter an economic depression unlike anything experienced in this countries history, and as will the world. By this time next month, it is highly possible, that if the economy is not reopened soon, the unemployment rate will double to somewhere around 15%. That ratio then jumps to 33:10,000, with a potential indirect death rate from the pandemic of over 4 million people per year and that’s not including increases in things like abortion, child mortality rate as well as decreases in quality of life.
Protecting public health is not just addressing the immediate outcome of a disease but doing so in a manner that does not endanger the long-term outcome of circumstances created by the short-term solutions driven by fear.
We need to keep slowing the curve but we also need not do it at the cost of our future. We can both slow the curve and work. That means more people will die directly from the virus but far fewer will die from the indirect causes of poverty due to an irrational overreaction. We can adapt rational aspects of social distancing that weigh these two factors rather than only valuing prevention of direct causes of death while at the same time accepting the economic cost of those social distancing measures as both life saving and necessary.
People should not be shamed as “putting people at risk” for wanting to work, participate in public gatherings, attend church, freely associate with others, even protest or petition their government. These are fundamental human rights which the government should not limit.