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Monday, May 4, 2020

The Cost Of Staying At Home

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Health problems worsen during lockdown

We were told, “Keep staying home. You are saving lives.”

Our job, after all, was to “flatten the curve” by social distancing and shutting down businesses, even as layoffs mounted, and the stock market plunged. Those who wondered aloud about the unintended consequences, or dared not to believe the (now defunct) predictive models, were considered callous and heartless – accused of putting dollars ahead of the “millions of lives on the line” if the economic lockdown was not extended indefinitely.

“Stay home and quit endangering others,” they said. “This is the ‘new’normal,” we were reminded, time and time again.

There seemed to be no other worthy goal than to remain idle at home, as if doing so was merely an alternative way of life we had suddenly (and pleasantly) discovered. Indeed, nothing else seemed to matter – at least not to the medical experts, nor to our government. Ironically, they all appeared more interested in those measures prolonging our idleness and further dismantling our American way of life rather than resuming it.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci warned that the United States will not come out of lockdown until there are no “new cases” of coronavirus. But at what cost is this advice?

Some say it has already cost tens of thousands of Americans their lives, and thousands more will die in the coming months – but not because of the coronavirus infection. No, not at all.

You see, one of the unintended consequences of the lockdown is that many people with urgent health problems (noncoronavirus) have remained at home during this time rather than seeking medical attention.

That’s because, in nearly every state, doctors have been prohibited by government from providing non-emergency medical care to their patients. But now, after weeks of no medical care, urgent health problems have simply worsened.

This may explain why there has been a spike in people dying at home in recent weeks. In Massachusetts, for example, there has been a 20% increase of in-home deaths this year, compared to the same time period for the past three years. In Detroit, they are reporting four times the number of in-home deaths as they had last year at this time. New York City is dealing with a six-fold increase.

Could it be our nearly myopic obedience to “flattening the curve” is resulting in the deaths of thousands who needed medical attention (for non-coronavirus-related illnesses), but couldn’t get to a hospital or refused to go, fearful they’d contract the virus, or that it wasn’t an “emergency”?

How many of us had scheduled a routine doctor’s visit, just to “have that looked at” a routine doctor’s visit had been prohibited by law.

Or what about the 30 million Americans who suffer from high blood pressure that is undiagnosed? High blood pressure is a primary or contributing cause of death for almost 500,000 people in the U.S. – nearly 1,300 deaths a day, or approximately 50,000 lives lost across the country, during our nation’s lockdown due to high blood pressure.

The same is true for high cholesterol. Many people don’t know that their cholesterol is too high until after a routine doctor’s visit and a simple blood test. And heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. – one person every 37 seconds dies – or about 647,000 Americans per year. That works out to approximately 60,000 lives lost across the or to talk to a doctor, but couldn’t because their doctor’s office was closed during the lockdown? According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), such preventative care saves over 100,000 lives each year. One wonders how many lives will be lost or changed forever due to a stroke or cancer, for example, that was diagnosed too late – because U.S. during this lockdown.

And what about early cancer detection from a routine doctor’s visit? Those visits save lives. In fact, there has been a 70% decline in cervical cancer rates due to routine screening tests. Colon cancer, caught early, has a 91%, five-year survival rate (compared to 11% survival rate if it is caught late). The five-year survival rate for breast cancer and prostate cancer patients (with early detection) is 98% and 100%, respectively. The estimated five-year survival rate for patients whose melanoma is detected early is about 99%.

BUT you’ve got to be able to see your doctor in the first place – something that was prohibited by law in nearly every state (and in some states, still is).

There are also the 20% increase in drug overdose deaths being reported during this pandemic. Almost 70,000 Americans died from drug overdoses last year. And what about those states (such as Louisiana) that have seen an unexpected increase in fatal car accidents during this lockdown period? 40,000 die in car accidents every year in the U.S.

Then there are those who died waiting for life-saving organ transplant procedures during this lockdown. Or the thousands who may die in the coming months because there has been such a dramatic decrease in organ donors during the lockdown. Living donors have been reluctant to go into the hospital due to the risk of coronavirus infection. The number of deceased donors went down by 30% during the lockdown, and the number of living donors decreased by 85%. Twenty people die each day waiting for an organ transplant.

The bottom line is that each coronavirus death is tragic – no doubt – and represents someone’s father or mother, brother or sister. I wish it were not so, but as it says in Proverbs, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.”

But no one – no one – whether it be a government official or those who live in socalled “ivory towers” should be choosing which lives are more valuable than others. Yet, this is exactly what happened in nearly every state across the country by virtue of this lockdown. Government chose which lives received the medical care needed, and ultimately, which ones would not. This should never happen again.

Thousands who needed only “routine” medical care were denied – but the counting of their lives lost, or otherwise changed forever, is only beginning.

Louis R. Avallone is a Shreveport businessman, attorney and author of “Bright Spots, Big Country, What Makes America Great.” He is also a former aide to U.S. Representative Jim McCrery and editor of The Caddo Republican. His columns have appeared regularly in 318 Forum since 2007. Follow him on Facebook, on Twitter @louisravallone or by e-mail at louisavallone@mac.com, and on American Ground Radio at 101.7FM and 710 AM, weeknights from 6 - 7 p.m., and streaming live on keelnews.com.

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