Foertsch portrays alarming false narrative
Geary Foertsch’s letter to the editor contained a quote from CDC Director Robert Redfield: “We’re seeing, sadly, far greater suicides now than we are from COVID.” That sounded odd, so I looked it up. According to the CDC, the U.S. recorded 48,344 suicides in 2018. So far this year, in less than 10 months, about 250,000 Americans have died from COVID-19. But Redfield’s quote seemed to suggest that suicides were increasing five-fold, from less than 50,000 to more than 250,000 - in a single year! Something was off. It was the context. Foertsch didn’t provide any. The quote comes from a July webinar about the reopening of schools. Redfield was talking specifically about students, especially high school students. Students ages 15-19 do die less often from COVID-19 than suicide. That’s not true of the population as a whole. But here’s something interesting. Despite fears that COVID-19 would send suicides spiraling, preliminary figures haven’t shown that. According to the Nov. 13 New Scientist, “As the world grapples with the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, there have been widespread predictions that the fallout would lead to a rise in suicide rates. Fortunately, figures available so far suggest that this hasn’t been happening. So it is important that we now rein in this alarmist narrative to avoid creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.” Foertsch, whether through deceit or willful carelessness, preferred the “alarmist narrative.” That portion of his letter is complete bunk.
We are heading into what will likely be a long, grim winter. Dr. Peter Hotez, an infectious disease expert at the Baylor College of Medicine, said the death toll from COVID-19 could reach 400,000 by the end of January. We could lower that number if we follow the science, if we focus on defeating COVID-19. That will mean tuning out the false narrative of exploding rates of suicide.