Comparing COVID-19 with Other Causes of Death

By: 
Thomas Beeler

In this extraordinary time, thoughts of mortality appear everywhere. weeks. Every day more than a thousand persons lose their lives to COVID-19. So, do you wonder about the numerous other ways of leaving our fair planet? I wondered about those things and decided to dig into the internet and find out. Here’s what I found, a large percentage of the statistics coming from the CDC. Other agencies supplied the rest, all of which was compiled in 2017 and 2018. I am sharing this information in the hope that readers will find it as informative as I did. Perhaps we will all be better equipped to form opinions regarding the COVID-19 crisis.

Following the mortality data, I will show the recent COVID-19 numbers so we can compare them and maybe form some of our own conclusions. After that I will offer some conclusions and opinions of my own.

Total Number of Deaths in 2017 in the US:

All causes – 2,813,503 (7,710 daily)

Life Expectancy – 78.6 years

Ten leading causes of death:

Heart Disease – 647,457 (1,774)

Cancer – 599,108 (1,641)

Accidents – 169,936 (466) (may also be partially included with home accidents)

Chronic lower respiratory diseases – 160,201 (439)

Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases) – 146,383 (401)

Alzheimer’s disease – 121,404 (333)

Diabetes – 83,564 (229)

Influenza and pneumonia – 55,672 (153)

Nephritis, nephrosis, (kidney) – 50,633 (139)

Intentional self harm (suicide) – 47,173 (129)

Sub-Total – 5,704 per day (in parentheses). Source cdc.gov

Other Causes – website for reporting sources is shown.

Poisoning – 64,795 (177) cdc.gov

Gun violence* – 36,383 (100) giffords.org

Auto accidents – 36,560 (100) iihs.org

Home accidents – 30,569 (84) ncbi.nim.nh.gov

Industrial – 5,250 (14) OSHA bls.gov

Falls, non-industrial (approx.) – 32,000 (88) nsc.org

Homicide* all types – 16,214 (44) ucr.fbi.gov

Drowning – 3,536 (10) cdc.gov

Farm – 500 (1.5) CDC NIOSH

Weather (heat, cold, lightning, etc.) – 700 (2.0) NIOSH

(*) Gun violence figures include homicide (35%), suicide (61%), police involved (1.4%), accidental (1.3%) and other undetermined causes. This information might also be included with figures shown for other causes.

COVID-19 Mortality in the US as of August 15 and are found in www.cdc.gov, updated almost continuously. As of August 15, the total number of COVID-19 fatalities exceeded 159,000. And on that single day there were 1,190 deaths.

If the total number of COVID-19 deaths (in the US) for the year 2020 reaches 300,000, the average daily number will have been 822 per day. If the total number becomes 200,000, the average will have been 548 per day. Both of these estimates are exceeded only by cancer and heart disease.

So, this information might help us put the coronavirus pandemic in perspective. Only then can we have a basis for evaluating the wisdom and effectiveness of government, educational, business and health programs that address the problem.

In conclusion, we must ask how many deaths would have occurred if many responsible state and federal agencies hadn’t reacted to the pandemic aggressively in the way they did? Twice as many? Three times as many? More? Recalling the situation in New York City in mid-spring, there were as many as 3,000 deaths in a single day. That was in a single large city, coming close to exceeding the mortality of both heart disease and cancer for the entire US in a single day!

We are not out of the woods. If we decide that a mortality rate of 1,000 per day is acceptable and act by relaxing the restraints we currently place on ourselves, then the COVID-19 pot will quickly boil again.

Despite the political and cultural resistance to the safeguards we have placed on ourselves, we have seen the benefits of continuing them. But relaxing them will put us back in the same mess. So I have a message to the folks who might support a relaxation of rules “because things aren’t too bad now”: The effect on our communities is less than disastrous because we have worked together and followed the re-opening rules set forth by the state government and other agencies. Let us continue the task until the pandemic is clearly under control.

Retired Boeing engineer Thomas Beeler resides in Anacortes, Wash. and is the publisher’s brother.

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