The burden of proof

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Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

Lockdowns are back in full force as we enter the holiday season. New York City has closed schools. Pennsylvanians are required to wear masks in their homes. Californians are to wear masks between bites of food (except Governor Newsom of course). Schools in many states have committed to remote learning only for foreseeable months. 
Amidst the rising “cases”, are the lockdowns a proportionate response? Recall governors locked down because the March 2020 Imperial College model predicted we’d be in a worst-case ten-fold shortfall of ICU capacity at our peak, and a best-case three-fold shortfall. That never happened, never got remotely close. Still, we’re locked down and really never fully reopened anywhere.
The WHO estimated weeks ago there may be 750MM people worldwide that have been infected with SARS-CoV-2. That run rate in America would mean over 150MM Americans have been infected. No one that follows this closely would doubt at least 100MM have been infected. As “cases” rise, and daily testing is between one and two million tests a day, it’s almost surprising we’re not reporting over 300,000 cases a day.
Meanwhile, COVID-19 hospitalizations are at an all-time high at 80,000 in America. How alarming is that? There’s no doubt COVID-19 activity is rising, but enough to justify more crushing lockdowns? With so many people infected, data from North Dakota, Iowa and Miami suggest a good third of all COVID-19 hospitalizations are not from COVID-19 but rather patients with an unrelated illness that are carrying the virus. That applies to COVID-19 fatalities too.
Consider South Dakota, along with Florida one of the two most open states. Governor Kristi Noem has been criticized by lockdown advocates for their rising cases and hospitalizations. However, the default for all states is to be open, we seem to have forgotten that. Locked down states need to demonstrate far superior COVID-19 results in hospitalizations and fatalities to justify lockdowns. They aren’t.
South Dakota has 13.6% of their hospital beds occupied with patients with SARS-CoV-2. The United States as a whole is at 8.9%. However, look at the COVID-19 hospitalization percent in states neighboring South Dakota: Nebraska – 13.45%; North Dakota – 12.3%; Idaho – 15.2%; Montana – 20.4%; Iowa – 16.5%. Shouldn’t the locked down states demonstrate hospitalizations than South Dakota if their lockdowns were effective? They aren’t.
Overall hospitalizations are basically flat to a year ago this week, total hospital beds occupied. South Dakota is .2% below average in total occupied hospital beds for any cause. Fairly open Georgia is down 3.5% and Florida is up 9%. Minnesota and Michigan are both up almost 10%, Pennsylvania is up a whopping 26%, and Wisconsin is up almost 30%. If lockdowns work, shouldn’t they be doing better to average than the open states?
CDC reports indicate that we have about 350,000 excess deaths in America year to date. Most of those may be attributed to COVID-19, but a solid hundred thousand-plus are attributed to lockdowns: deaths of despair, Alzheimer’s abandonment deaths, deaths of those age 26-44 not from COVID-19, not to mention 46% of the six most common cancers didn’t get diagnosed, half the 650,000 cancer patients missed treatments, half the child immunizations were missed. We can discuss the 33MM+ kids losing a year of education this year another time, all while people age 0-25 are actually 2% below average in total deaths this year.
The United States is +12% in all-cause deaths in 2020. Open South Dakota should be far surpassing locked down states this year in all-cause deaths. South Dakota is ranked 45th in the country in excess deaths this year at +3%. States doing far worse than South Dakota that are locked down include New Jersey (+29%), Maryland (+17%), Illinois (+15%), Michigan (+14%), California (+11%), New Mexico (+9%), Pennsylvania (+9%), and every state bordering the Mount Rushmore State. When this is over, measuring all-cause mortality impacts will be the most reliable metric to determine the impact of COVID-19 and the lockdowns. If you consider COVID-19 deaths per million, locked down states should have far fewer lives lost than those open, and they are not and in most cases are doing worse.
States that are locking down are not outperforming those that are open, and they should be by huge margins to justify lockdowns. The burden of proof is on the lockdown states to prove they are effective at suppressing infections, hospitalizations and fatalities compared to those open. They simply are not.


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Michael Betrus
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