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I have been very impressed with the Coronavirus in One State series written by Powerline’s Scott Johnson. It has made me search for the same diligence in the Virginia press. Unfortunately, I haven’t found it. I finally ended up writing two of the reporters at The Daily Press/Virginian Pilot (they are both owned by the same company) asking them about it. Here’s what I wrote:
Mr. Coutu and Ms. Matrey:
I am writing to you since you are listed on the byline for the last two reports in The Daily Press covering reported COVID-19 deaths in the Commonwealth. I am concerned with a lack of granularity in the information that’s being reported. We have a number of deaths: twelve reported today and fifteen yesterday. What I haven’t seen reported is the demographics of who is dying. We don’t know if those who have died are terminally ill patients or 20-year-olds struck down in their prime. Below is an excerpt from a report today by Scott Johnson of Powerline. He’s been covering the response in Minnesota:
“[Minnesota] reported 20 new deaths that they attributed to the virus, bringing the total to 578. Sixteen of the 20 new deaths occurred among residents of long-term care facilities [LTC], bringing the total of LTC deaths attributed to the virus to 464 and keeping the share of all such deaths at slightly in excess of 80 percent. The median age of all decedents remains 83.
“The state authorities do not regularly update us on the share of deaths attributable to residents of long-term facilities and those with significant underlying conditions. When asked recently, Infectious Diseases Division Director Kris Ehresmann provided the answer to two decimal places: 99.24 percent…”
This is the level of detail that I wish we had in Virginia.
- How many of the new deaths occurred in LTC facilities?
- The median age of those who have died.
- Deaths were attributable to LTC residents and those with significant underlying conditions.
I went on the Virginia Department of Health website today and tried to get those three numbers. The best that I can do is find the number of deaths associated with outbreaks in LTC. I have to assume that all the LTC deaths occurred in an outbreak. If so, then 57% of all deaths occurred in LTC (503 out of 880). I cannot determine the median age. The VDH only breaks the ages down by decades. Using that information, it comes out to 75% of all deaths occurred in those 70 and older.
The third statistic is not available at all. Last week, I emailed the VDH and asked about it. Lauren Yerkes told me that they do not have information on underlying conditions. Why don’t they have that information? I feel that it is vital for that to be reported.
We are currently experiencing an economic shutdown mandated by Richmond. We are under a stay at home order until early June. We need to know the full picture of whom this virus is the greatest threat. We need to hear Richmond justify exactly why this is necessary. We need more than just vague apocalyptic predictions used to scare us into complying. We need the press to ask the uncomfortable questions to our elected leaders who are imposing these restrictions.
Thank you for your time.Published in