Covid-19, Endemic or Not, Will Still Make Us Poorer

Link: https://www.wsj.com/articles/covid-19-endemic-or-not-will-still-make-us-poorer-11642608213

Excerpt:

Endemic Covid-19 could thus become a lasting “supply shock” that degrades how much economies can produce, similar to the surge in oil prices in the 1970s. In October, the International Monetary Fund estimated global output this year would still be 3% lower than it had projected in 2019, with Western Europe and Latin America showing much bigger hits than China and Japan, where Covid-19’s toll has been much lower.

The U.S. is an exception: Output in the last quarter of 2021 was roughly back to its pre-pandemic trend. But the economy, distorted and disrupted by Covid-19, is struggling to sustain this level of output, as the surge in inflation to 7% demonstrates.

Covid-19 might have boosted efficiency in some industries by speeding up digitization and adoption of remote work. Goldman Sachs economists estimate this delivered a 3% to 4% boost to U.S. productivity.

But some of the shift to remote operations is involuntary, and some of the rise in productivity might reflect an overworked workforce. Indeed, the pandemic has left the labor force smaller, sicker and less happy. Absences due to illness among employed workers have averaged 50% higher in the last two years. In early January, nearly 12 million people weren’t working because they were sick with Covid-19, caring for someone with coronavirus, or concerned about getting or spreading the disease, according to a regular Census Bureau survey. The figure hasn’t been below 4 million since June 2020.

In the past year, workers have reported declining satisfaction with their wages and a rising “reservation wage,” that is, how much they would have to be paid to accept a new job, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. This might reflect inflation, changed expectations, or stress due to Covid-19 testing, masks and vaccine mandates, or their absence.

For employers, this makes it much harder to attract the necessary staff. Nursing homes have boosted hourly wages 14% since the start of the pandemic, yet staffing has plummeted 12%, impairing their ability to accept new patients. Such shortages impose a cost that doesn’t show up in gross domestic product.

Author(s): Greg Ip

Publication Date: 19 Jan 2022

Publication Site: WSJ

To Fight Covid, We Need to Think Less Like Doctors

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/14/opinion/covid-america.html

Excerpt:

If we’re trying to prevent Covid surges and end the pandemic, then we need to center the population in our thinking. Health authorities need to get tools like rapid tests and better masks to as many people as possible, especially those who are more likely to spread disease, even if they’re at low risk themselves. People need to be persuaded or incentivized to vaccinate to protect others.

If you are sick, even with severe Covid, you want someone with a doctor’s viewpoint caring for you. America, however, is not a patient. And we’d all be better off, as a society and as individuals, if those in control of our country’s health stopped thinking of it that way.

Author(s): Aaron E. Carroll

Publication Date: 14 Jan 2022

Publication Site: NYT

5 States Where Dying People Are Most Likely to Be Working Age

Link: https://www.thinkadvisor.com/2021/12/21/5-states-where-dying-people-are-the-most-likely-to-be-working-age/

Graphic:

Excerpt:

Whatever the omicron variant of COVID-19 does to U.S. life insurance insurance claims, the delta variant and its siblings have been continuing to drive up the number of deaths of working-age Americans.

Some life and health insurers reported that an enormous surge of COVID-19 deaths appeared in September and then seemed to end quickly.

A look at weekly death count data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that, from 2015 through 2019, about 12,900 people ages 25 through 64 died, from all causes, in a typical week.

In September, the number climbed more than 7,000, or more than 50%, over the median.

That total includes both people killed directly by COVID-19 and by the effects of the pandemic on the health care system, the economy and U.S. society as a whole.

Author(s): Allison Bell

Publication Date: 3 Jan 2022

Publication Site: Think Advisor

Indiana life insurance CEO says deaths are up 40% among people ages 18-64

Link:https://www.thecentersquare.com/indiana/indiana-life-insurance-ceo-says-deaths-are-up-40-among-people-ages-18-64/article_71473b12-6b1e-11ec-8641-5b2c06725e2c.html

Excerpt:

The head of Indianapolis-based insurance company OneAmerica said the death rate is up a stunning 40% from pre-pandemic levels among working-age people.

“We are seeing, right now, the highest death rates we have seen in the history of this business – not just at OneAmerica,” the company’s CEO Scott Davison said during an online news conference this week. “The data is consistent across every player in that business.”

OneAmerica is a $100 billion insurance company that has had its headquarters in Indianapolis since 1877. The company has approximately 2,400 employees and sells life insurance, including group life insurance to employers in the state.

Davison said the increase in deaths represents “huge, huge numbers,” and that’s it’s not elderly people who are dying, but “primarily working-age people 18 to 64” who are the employees of companies that have group life insurance plans through OneAmerica.

“And what we saw just in third quarter, we’re seeing it continue into fourth quarter, is that death rates are up 40% over what they were pre-pandemic,” he said.

Author(s): Margaret Menge

Publication Date: 1 Jan 2022

Publication Site: The Center Square

Ancient Plagues

Link:https://astralcodexten.substack.com/p/ancient-plagues

Excerpt:

But the 1918 Spanish flu has, as far as I know, legitimately died out. Lots of people like saying that in a sense it’s still with us. This NEJM paper (with a celebrity author!) points out that it’s the ancestor of all existing flu strains. But most of these flu strains are less infectious than it was. This didn’t make sense to me the first, second, or third time I asked about it: why would a flu evolve into an inferior flu? Sure, it might evolve into a less deadly flu because it’s perfectly happy being more infectious but less deadly. But I think the Spanish flu was also especially infectious; so why would it evolve away from that?

One possible answer is “because by 1919, everyone had immunity to the 1918 flu, so it evolved away from it – and now nobody has immunity, but it lost the original blueprint.” The 1918 flu was a really optimal point in fluspace, but during all of history up until 1918, the flu’s evolutionary hill-climbing algorithm didn’t manage to find that point, and since flu has no memory it’s not going to be any easier for it to find it the second time, after it evolved away from it. So plausibly, existing flus are strictly worse at their job than Spanish flu was, and digging up an intact copy of the latter would be really bad.

And then there’s smallpox. No mystery why smallpox died out – we killed it. But then we stopped vaccinating people against it, and now if it comes back it would be really bad.

Author(s): Scott Alexander

Publication Date: 14 Dec 2021

Publication Site: Astral Codex Ten

As U.S. Nears 800,000 Virus Deaths, 1 of Every 100 Older Americans Has Perished

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/13/us/covid-deaths-elderly-americans.html

Graphic:

Excerpt:

As the coronavirus pandemic approaches the end of a second year, the United States stands on the cusp of surpassing 800,000 deaths from the virus, and no group has suffered more than older Americans. All along, older people have been known to be more vulnerable, but the scale of loss is only now coming into full view.

Seventy-five percent of people who have died of the virus in the United States — or about 600,000 of the nearly 800,000 who have perished so far — have been 65 or older. One in 100 older Americans has died from the virus. For people younger than 65, that ratio is closer to 1 in 1,400.

…..

After the first known coronavirus death in the United States in February 2020, the virus’s death toll in this country reached 100,000 people in only three months. The pace of deaths slowed throughout summer 2020, then quickened throughout the fall and winter, and then slowed again this spring and summer.

Throughout the summer, most people dying from the virus were concentrated in the South. But the most recent 100,000 deaths — beginning in early October — have spread out across the nation, in a broad belt across the middle of the country from Pennsylvania to Texas, the Mountain West and Michigan.

These most recent 100,000 deaths, too, have all occurred in less than 11 weeks, a sign that the pace of deaths is moving more quickly once again — faster than at any time other than last winter’s surge.

By now, Covid-19 has become the third leading cause of death among Americans 65 and older, after heart disease and cancer. It is responsible for about 13 percent of all deaths in that age group since the beginning of 2020, more than diabetes, accidents, Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

Author(s): Julie Bosman, Amy Harmon and Albert Sun

Publication Date: 13 Dec 2021

Publication Site: New York Times

Covid Spurs Biggest Rise in Life-Insurance Payouts in a Century

Link:https://www.wsj.com/articles/covid-spurs-biggest-rise-in-life-insurance-payouts-in-a-century-11639045802

Excerpt:

The Covid-19 pandemic last year drove the biggest increase in death benefits paid by U.S. life insurers since the 1918 influenza epidemic, an industry trade group said.

Death-benefit payments rose 15.4% in 2020 to $90.43 billion, mostly due to the pandemic, according to the American Council of Life Insurers. In 1918, payments surged 41%.

The hit to the insurance industry was less than expected early in the pandemic because many of the victims were older people who typically have smaller policies. The industry paid out $78.36 billion in 2019, and payouts have typically increased modestly each year.

….

In the 1918 flu pandemic, the number of U.S. deaths reached about 675,000, with mortality high in people younger than 5 years old, 20 to 40 years old, and 65 years and older, according to the CDC’s website.

The ACLI’s data show two other years, both in the 1920s, when year-over-year increases topped 15%, when there also were influenza epidemics, said Andrew Melnyk, the ACLI’s vice president of research and chief economist.

Author(s): Leslie Scism

Publication Date: 9 Dec 2021

Publication Site: Wall Street Journal

Trying to Make Sense of COVID’s Mysterious 2-Month Cycle

Link:https://news.yahoo.com/trying-sense-covids-mysterious-2-121821028.html

Excerpt:

The number of new daily cases in the United States has fallen 35% since Sept. 1. Worldwide, cases have also dropped more than 30% since late August. “This is as good as the world has looked in many months,” Dr. Eric Topol of Scripps Research wrote last week.

The most encouraging news is that the most serious forms of COVID are also declining. The number of Americans hospitalized with COVID has fallen about 25% since Sept. 1. Daily deaths — which typically change direction a few weeks after cases and hospitalizations — have fallen 10% since Sept. 20. It is the first sustained decline in deaths since early summer.

These declines are consistent with a pattern that readers will recognize: COVID’s mysterious two-month cycle. Since the COVID virus began spreading in late 2019, cases have often surged for about two months — sometimes because of a variant, such as delta — and then declined for about two months.

Public health researchers do not understand why. Many popular explanations — such as seasonality or the ebbs and flows of mask wearing and social distancing — are clearly insufficient, if not wrong. The two-month cycle has occurred during different seasons of the year and occurred even when human behavior was not changing in obvious ways.

Author(s): David Leonhardt

Publication Date: 4 Oct 2021

Publication Site: Yahoo News (originally at NYT)

Global prevalence and burden of depressive and anxiety disorders in 204 countries and territories in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic

Link: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(21)02143-7/fulltext?dgcid=tlcom_php_carousel_worldmentalhealthday21_

Graphic:

Excerpt:

We identified 5683 unique data sources, of which 48 met inclusion criteria (46 studies met criteria for major depressive disorder and 27 for anxiety disorders). Two COVID-19 impact indicators, specifically daily SARS-CoV-2 infection rates and reductions in human mobility, were associated with increased prevalence of major depressive disorder (regression coefficient [B] 0·9 [95% uncertainty interval 0·1 to 1·8; p=0·029] for human mobility, 18·1 [7·9 to 28·3; p=0·0005] for daily SARS-CoV-2 infection) and anxiety disorders (0·9 [0·1 to 1·7; p=0·022] and 13·8 [10·7 to 17·0; p<0·0001]. Females were affected more by the pandemic than males (B 0·1 [0·1 to 0·2; p=0·0001] for major depressive disorder, 0·1 [0·1 to 0·2; p=0·0001] for anxiety disorders) and younger age groups were more affected than older age groups (−0·007 [–0·009 to −0·006; p=0·0001] for major depressive disorder, −0·003 [–0·005 to −0·002; p=0·0001] for anxiety disorders). We estimated that the locations hit hardest by the pandemic in 2020, as measured with decreased human mobility and daily SARS-CoV-2 infection rate, had the greatest increases in prevalence of major depressive disorder and anxiety disorders. We estimated an additional 53·2 million (44·8 to 62·9) cases of major depressive disorder globally (an increase of 27·6% [25·1 to 30·3]) due to the COVID-19 pandemic, such that the total prevalence was 3152·9 cases (2722·5 to 3654·5) per 100 000 population. We also estimated an additional 76·2 million (64·3 to 90·6) cases of anxiety disorders globally (an increase of 25·6% [23·2 to 28·0]), such that the total prevalence was 4802·4 cases (4108·2 to 5588·6) per 100 000 population. Altogether, major depressive disorder caused 49·4 million (33·6 to 68·7) DALYs and anxiety disorders caused 44·5 million (30·2 to 62·5) DALYs globally in 2020.

DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(21)02143-7

Author(s): COVID-19 Mental Disorders Collaborators

Publication Date: 8 Oct 2021

Publication Site: The Lancet

Quantifying impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic through life-expectancy losses: a population-level study of 29 countries

Link:https://academic.oup.com/ije/advance-article/doi/10.1093/ije/dyab207/6375510

Graphic:

Life expectancy at birth (age 0, left panel) and at age 60 years (right panel) by country and sex, in 2015, 2019 and 2020. Estimates for females (red), males (blue), 2015 (|), 2019 (+), 2020 (○). Countries are sorted from highest to lowest levels of female life expectancy at birth in 2019. *Estimates for Chile, Greece and Germany were available from 2016. All data points are provided in a table in Supplementary File 2, available as Supplementary data at IJE online. An interactive version of this visualization is available at https://covid19.demographicscience.ox.ac.uk/lifeexpectancy.

Abstract:

Background

Variations in the age patterns and magnitudes of excess deaths, as well as differences in population sizes and age structures, make cross-national comparisons of the cumulative mortality impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic challenging. Life expectancy is a widely used indicator that provides a clear and cross-nationally comparable picture of the population-level impacts of the pandemic on mortality.Methods

Life tables by sex were calculated for 29 countries, including most European countries, Chile and the USA, for 2015–2020. Life expectancy at birth and at age 60 years for 2020 were contextualized against recent trends between 2015 and 2019. Using decomposition techniques, we examined which specific age groups contributed to reductions in life expectancy in 2020 and to what extent reductions were attributable to official COVID-19 deaths.Results

Life expectancy at birth declined from 2019 to 2020 in 27 out of 29 countries. Males in the USA and Lithuania experienced the largest losses in life expectancy at birth during 2020 (2.2 and 1.7 years, respectively), but reductions of more than an entire year were documented in 11 countries for males and 8 among females. Reductions were mostly attributable to increased mortality above age 60 years and to official COVID-19 deaths.Conclusions

The COVID-19 pandemic triggered significant mortality increases in 2020 of a magnitude not witnessed since World War II in Western Europe or the breakup of the Soviet Union in Eastern Europe. Females from 15 countries and males from 10 ended up with lower life expectancy at birth in 2020 than in 2015.

Author(s): José Manuel Aburto, Jonas Schöley, Ilya Kashnitsky, Luyin Zhang, Charles Rahal, Trifon I Missov, Melinda C Mills, Jennifer B Dowd, Ridhi Kashyap

Publication Date: 26 Sept 2021

Publication Site: International Journal of Epidemiology

U.S. Covid-19 Death Toll Surpasses 1918 Flu Fatalities

Link: https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-covid-19-death-toll-surpasses-1918-flu-fatalities-11632176583

Excerpt:

The U.S. on Monday crossed the threshold of 675,000 reported Covid-19 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University, which tracks data from state health authorities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the influenza pandemic killed about that many people in the U.S. a century ago, in 1918 and 1919. Both figures are likely undercounts, epidemiologists and historians say.

There are several differences between the current pandemic and the one that claimed nearly as many lives more than 100 years ago. The U.S. at that time was roughly one-third its current size, so the flu pandemic took a proportionately bigger toll on the population. That pandemic had a devastating effect on young people, including small children and young-to-middle-aged adults, while Covid-19 has hit older people hardest, according to health officials.

Author(s): Jon Kamp and Jennifer Calfas

Publication Date: 20 Sept 2021

Publication Site: WSJ