How is Colorado immune to deaths of despair? Deaths of despair are fatalities that increase with the rise in unemployment. These include deaths caused by cardiac arrest, suicide, homicide, substance abuse, drug overdose, and domestic violence.
“…a 1% increase in the unemployment rate sustained over a period of six years has been associated (during the past three decades) with increases of 36,887 total deaths, including 20,240 cardiovascular deaths, 920 suicides, 648 homicides, 495 deaths from cirrhosis of the liver, 4,227 state mental hospital admissions, and 3,340 state prison admission.” [i]
The data from the 1970s should be adjusted from 36,887 to 58,834 deaths of despair with current US population. Multiply 58,834 by an increase of 8.8 for the corresponding rise in unemployment rate between February and April 2020, and the US could expect 517,739 deaths of despair. This public health crisis far exceeds the 137,922 Covid19 deaths currently reported by the CDC in the US as of July 31, 2020. If these deaths of despair are distributed across states based on state population, then Colorado can estimate to expect 9,060 deaths of despair, in proportion to 1.75% of the US population. Most states are reporting elevated numbers of deaths of despair due to the lockdowns and economic depression from the pandemic, but Colorado is an outlier with CDPHE reporting decreases in suicides and heart attacks.
In late March, Tennessee reported “More People Died of Suicide Than Coronavirus in Tennessee Last Week.” [ii] California doctors also report they have seen more deaths by suicide during the quarantine period than deaths from the COVID-19 virus.[iii] US physicians sent a distressed letter to President Trump in May declaring, “Suicide hotline phone calls have increased 600%.” [iv]
The pandemic and accompanying public health restrictions led to a 10.2% increase in domestic violence calls to police for intervention. [v] People were captive to abusers resulting in more frequency and severity in abuse. Denver police reports a 22.7% increase in aggravated assaults for 2020 compared to 2019.[vi]
Cardiac Arrest and Stroke
In March, New York reported a 40% increase in calls for emergency medical treatment to 911.[vii] In the Baltimore–Washington metropolitan area, MedStar EMS reported 164% increase in cardiac arrest deaths.
“Responses in which a patient was found by MedStar crews to be in cardiac arrest were up 113% in April 2020 compared to April 2019. Of the patients found to be in cardiac arrest, patients pronounced dead on scene by MedStar crews was up 164% April 2020 compared to April 2019.”[viii]
Drug Overdose and Substance Abuse
Like most major cities, murder in Denver increased 46% from January to June 2020, compared to January to June 2019.[xi] “This is a fairly significant uptick in violence — both in homicides and shootings,” Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen said. [xii]
Colorado Reported Deaths of Despair
CDPHE reported a record-breaking 20,000 calls in March to the Colorado Crisis Services hotline, with an increase of 47% from March 2019.[xiii] Despite this, CDPHE said “they have not noticed an increase in suicide deaths in 2020.” With this pressure cooker and the largest drop of US GDP in history, Colorado’s April 11.3% unemployment rate is the highest recorded since unemployment tracking began in 1976. [xiv] It is not plausible that CDPHE can be accurately reporting a 16% decrease in suicides and 15% decrease in heart attack deaths. The accuracy of these numbers is critical in analyzing the effectiveness of the unprecedented public health policies for Covid19 and guiding future policies for Influenza season. The projected 9,060 deaths of despair for Colorado could exceed the current 1,691 Covid19 virus deaths. This is a critical area of investigation if the state has a sincere goal to save as many lives as possible. Did public health experts campaign with a hyper-focus on a single virus mostly impacting the narrow subgroups of the elderly and Latino communities, while ignoring the orders-of-magnitude higher detrimental health impact of economic instability on the majority of the low-risk populations? CDPHE should report on deaths of despair alongside every daily Covid19 death report for a comprehensive perspective on public health.