Whether one “believes” in it or not, COVID-19 is a real problem, killing real people all over the U.S. and throughout our state.
If you are among those who dismiss the deaths of those over 60 because “They are old people and old people die,” shame on you. If you are among those who simply don’t know the history of public health advances, educate yourself…but not via Facebook or its ilk.
You cannot forget what you never knew
Many under the age of 60 never knew that:
- Smallpox was the first disease fought with a vaccine. Cowpox served as a natural vaccine until the modern smallpox vaccine emerged in the 19th century. From 1958 to 1977, the World Health Organization conducted a global vaccination campaign that eradicated smallpox, making it the only human disease to be eradicated.
- Pertussis (Whooping Cough) killed 8000/year in the US before the vaccine. Now, less than 20 die each year.
- Polio averaged 15,000 cases of paralysis and killed about 1900 per year in the US before vaccines.
- In the 1920s, there were between 100,000 and 200,000 cases of diphtheria each year with 13,000–15,000 deaths. Now, there were only two reported cases in the US between 2004-2014.
- Rubella (German measles) infected 12.5 million people, killed 2000 babies, and caused 11,000 miscarriages in 1964-1965.
Several of these diseases are currently seeing a resurgence because of those who refuse to accept the vaccine.
Thanks to the wonders of science and the hard work of public health officials, we are now safe from many diseases. Unfortunately, we tend to forget about these horrible diseases from which public health advances have saved us. Once the threat appears to be gone from our lives, we become lax. Or worse, we make up other things to worry about.
For instance, today’s parents forget, or more likely never knew, that 33 of every 100,000 people who experienced actual measles ended up with mental retardation or central nervous system damage. (That’s in addition to those who died.)
Historically, what’s gone right?
Vaccines and other public health advances (clean water, improved sanitation, control of infectious disease, more and safer food, etc.) have been very effective at improving health and saving and extending lives. Because of that, our life expectancy has more than doubled from 35 to almost 80 in the past 200 years.
Also because of that, most people in the U.S. have no idea what it’s like to watch a child die a painful death from a tetanus infection or starvation or to witness a loved one experience brutal paralysis and death from polio. A quick walk through most any old cemetery makes the point, with many, many family plots holding numerous tiny graves of children who never made it past age 5. In 1800, the child mortality rate in the United States, for children under the age of five, was 462.9 deaths per thousand births (over 46%).
Back to the COVID-19 issue: What’s gone wrong?
It is understandable that we forget some things, and forgivable that there are things we never knew. But it is not OK to practice purposeful historical amnesia, discounting the worth of professions with proven track records in solving problems, clearing up mysteries and alleviating misery worldwide.
Effective political leadership could have possibly overcome the public’s general indifference to or ignorance of the benefits of science and public health advances to our daily lives. However, our national, and in Mississippi’s case, our state “leaders” have failed us. But, we elected them. So…
The internet and social media are rife with misinformation on this subject (and many others, as well). Too many folks choose to believe those sources, rather than the scientists and medical professionals who have raised our standard of living and our life expectancy over the past decades. Conspiracy theories are, indeed, more interesting than facts. But they are also more deadly.
It is true that no one really knows everything about COVID-19. It is also true that very few Facebook meme artists and pontificators know anything whatever about COVID-19.
A few facts about November and December 2020
As of yesterday, December 15, 2020, total COVID-19 deaths in Mississippi stood at 4,252; there had already been 436 deaths in Mississippi so far this (half) month. This is 44 more deaths than the 392 seen for the entire month of November 2020. You do the math for the remainder of December, and for the several months yet to come.
As of the week ending November 21, 2020, Mississippi had tallied 34,680 deaths for the year from all causes. The average for that same period of time in the three preceding years (2017-2019) is 29,116.7. Let’s call it 29,117. This means that this year Mississippi is ahead of the average deaths from all causes by 5563 “excess” deaths.
Between 11/21/2020 and 12/15/2020 the Mississippi State Department of Health’s (MSDH) daily reports ascribed 559 deaths to COVID-19. I’ll do this math for you. It means that on 11/21/2020, there were 5,563 “excess” deaths (as compared to a 3 year average), but “only” 5,004 of those deaths were attributed to COVID-19. These statistics do NOTHING to substantiate the rampant rumors that MSDH is “over-reporting” or “mandating” or “exaggerating” COVID-19 deaths. If anything, they support the MSDH claim that they are more likely to be cautious, and therefore possibly under-reporting actual COVID-19 deaths.
A few facts about Mississippi
Oh, how proud we should be of our thinly populated little state.
Over 4200 Mississippians are already dead. How many more must die before the public puts on a serious face…and a mask?
As of yesterday, according to WorldoMeter, Mississippi was the 9th most deadly state in the nation, with 1,413 deaths per million population. Most of the states ahead of us in this list are highly populous northeastern states who dropped the ball early in the COVID-19 battle, but have since improved their record. Another leader is Louisiana, home of the early-on COVID-19 hot spot otherwise known as New Orleans. Then there’s the Dakotas, where COVID-19 is currently wiping out many of the native American tribes who survived earlier government failures. What is our state doing on this list?
The over 4200 Mississippians killed so far by COVID-19 represent more folks than live in any one of 304 of Mississippi’s 380 cities. Only 76 cities in Mississippi contain more folks than have been killed by COVID-19. If you live in Fulton, Houston, Baldwyn, Water Valley , Verona, Guntown, Plantersville, Blue Mountain, Hickory Flat and many many more communities, look around you. As many folks as live in your town are already dead from COVID-19. How many more towns will make the list before this is over? It is up to you.
By now, we all know what we should be doing…and not doing.
People, Mississippians can do better. We must do better.
Don’t take my word for it, educate yourself:
Public health miracles: https://sjbpublichealth.org/200-years-public-health-doubled-life-expectancy/
The world before vaccines: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/culture/2019/08/cannot-forget-world-before-vaccines/
Diseases we no longer worry much about: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents/diseases/forgot-14-diseases.html
COVID-19 closes funeral home: https://www.nemiss.news/united-funeral-service-shuts-down-covid/
Covid-19 coronavirus, health and wellness, Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH), msdh, Northeast Mississippi news, Public Health, Social Media