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Above-average and excess deaths in NC even before counting COVID deaths. Are Cooper’s orders the reason?

My research brief this week highlights a serious issue facing North Carolina. Since April, North Carolinians are dying at an above-average rate. Yes, you might say, but that’s from COVID. No, we’re dying at an above-average rate even before you count COVID deaths.

In fact, North Carolina has even witnessed excess deaths from non-COVID causes. Something else is going on.

A likely reason, as a growing chorus of experts worldwide have been warning about, is highly restrictive government reactions to COVID-19, lockdowns and shutdowns and personal restrictions. This question simply must be seriously examined because lives are at stake:

Are Gov. Cooper’s lockdowns, business shutdowns and partial shutdowns, social-distancing policies, gathering bans, and myriad other restrictions on people, places, and events having devastating health effects on North Carolinians?

The graph atop this post highlights the relevant portion from the larger chart from my research brief. Here is the discussion in the brief:

I have broken North Carolina’s weekly death columns into non-COVID deaths (blue section) and deaths attributed by DHHS to COVID-19 (orange section) and graphed them against the CDC’s average weekly deaths number and the excess death threshold.

The results are sobering. Deaths either from or with COVID-19 don’t tell the whole story of weekly deaths in North Carolina. Something else is going on.

As you can see, starting in April, without accounting for COVID-19 deaths, the weekly deaths in North Carolina have been above average. The only two exceptions are the weeks ending May 2 and June 13.

Worse, for the weeks ending July 4, July 18, and July 25, North Carolina was suffering excess deaths without even counting COVID-19 deaths. Something else unusual was happening that was contributing to more North Carolinians dying than should be expected.

Then I highlight two other concerns related to the chart and its findings: (1) its data only extend partially into August, and (2) COVID-19 deaths are likely inflated, but we don’t know by how much:

The problem may even be worse than that. As already discussed here, DHHS is doesn’t distinguish between deaths from COVID-19 (i.e., someone dying from COVID-induced pneumonia) and deaths with COVID-19 (i.e., someone dying from Stage 4 cancer who happened to test positive for COVID-19). This inflation of COVID-19 deaths means that several more weeks could actually reflect excess deaths from non-COVID causes. They would be the weeks ending April 25, May 9, May 16, May 23, July 11, and August 1.

Those two concerns mean that the problem of deaths related to the effects of Cooper’s orders are still taking place, to an unknown extent. Without that knowledge, Cooper just extended his orders again, even adding new restrictions.

How many North Carolinians are suffering dire health consequences from the negative unintended consequences of Cooper’s orders?

Jon Sanders / Director of Regulatory Studies

Jon Sanders studies regulatory policy, a veritable kudzu of invasive government and unintended consequences. As director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation, Jo...

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