Letters to the Editor 2019

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To the Editor:

It’s time to get this country open for business, sooner rather than later, or face much more dire consequences than the health risks caused by COVID-19. 

The current prediction for deaths caused by this virus has been downgraded to 60,000, and as tragic as that figure is for those directly affected, the long-term effects on the health and well-being of millions of Americans is still very much in question. 

Take for example the rapid increase in the past decade in what medical experts have designated as deaths of despair: obesity-related diseases like diabetes and hyper tension, pulmonary disease caused by smoking, cancers and other diseases caused by alcohol, tobacco, and drug abuse, drug overdoses, and suicide. (Nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention figures released in January showed 48,344 people died by suicide in 2018, up from 47,173 the year prior. The CDC figures also showed in 2018, 67,367 drug overdose deaths occurred in the nation.) 

These diseases of despair are epidemic among the economically disenfranchised or marginalized who either live in chronic poverty or who live paycheck to paycheck working low-paying service industry jobs. 

One need only look at our community for evidence of this reality. As with any disaster, the poor are always the most victimized by it. 

I wonder if the CDC or other government health agencies have done any statistical analysis of the long- term effect on this cohort of Americans. Loss of income equates to more people living in poverty, living without homes, living without health insurance, living without proper nutrition, and living without hope of a better tomorrow. 

More children will have to endure the tragic and long- term consequences of adverse childhood experiences (ACES) stemming from an impoverished and often dysfunctional home environment. 

We don’t have to be an expert to predict that this will translate into exponentially more deaths from diseases of despair than will ever be caused by COVID-19. But then again, who really cares about the poor as long as we are all safe for now?