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LeDuff: COVID deaths climb; does anyone care?


COVID. Remember COVID?

No seeds. No boats. No school. No restaurants. No funerals. No church. No old folks visits. No toilet paper. No state constitution. No travel to Florida (unless you're a connected politician). No work. Two weeks to flatten the curve. Pause to save lives.

Remember?

We nearly destroyed ourselves to save ourselves. Or so we were told by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Then the national political cycle passed. Trump got dumped. And COVID morphed into the weakling omicron variant. Three vaccines became universally available just over a year ago. Monoclonal antibody treatments came online.

And thus the Great Pandemic was over. We were saved.

Except that's not true.

Unbelievably, COVID deaths in Michigan were higher from June 2021 to now than they were for the year previous. Michigan experienced a wild spike in deaths this spring that mirrored levels from the beginning of the pandemic.

Not a word has been said. No acknowledgment from the governor. Nothing but crickets from state health officials.

The arithmetic is simple. The New York Times COVID database shows Michigan suffered 15,821 COVID deaths from June 8, 2021, to June 7, 2022. 

The prior year — June 8, 2020, to June 7, 2021 — Michigan was victim to 14,670 COVID deaths.

That means, Michigan's COVID death rate has actually increased by 8% in the past year.

For comparison, COVID deaths in the United State have decreased by more than 16%. As for our neighbors in the Midwest — COVID deaths have plummeted on average by 13%.

So what gives in Michigan? Where's the old corona hysteria? By the standards of 2020, these numbers would justify new lockdowns (not that I’m advocating that, since they seem to have accomplished little). Where is our mothering governor? What happened to Fauci? (I hear the doc has caught the COVID.) 

Why has Michigan become a virtual Shanghai? Why have death rates ballooned here as the potency of COVID has declined and treatments have become available?

It can't be that the Whitmer administration is back-loading hidden deaths from early in the pandemic. Doug Ringler, the state’s auditor general, verified as much when he pored through every death certificate since the pandemic began. 

In his excellent report issued earlier this year, Ringler also found the state’s nursing home deaths were actually 42% higher than the Whitmer administration was telling the public. (That number may be significantly higher — stay tuned in the following weeks.)

And it can't be public policy. Every state in the union is essentially wide open, with few restrictions on public gatherings. The age of lockdowns and masks mandates is behind us (Detroit’s public school children currently excepted).

And it can't be vaccination rates either. According to the Times data, Michigan is about average in vaccination rates among adults in the Midwest, which includes Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.

I’ll leave it to the scientists and epidemiologists to figure out the why.

But the lack of response is galling. Whitmer shut the state down, broke the financial backs of working people and damaged the emotional equilibrium of our children to save lives — or so she claimed. 

Now that more people are dying than ever before, her department hasn't bothered to even hold a press conference to tell us this is happening, let alone what they plan to do about it.

Is there an acceptable death rate in Michigan, now that Gretchen E. Whitmer — and not Donald J. Trump — is up for re-election? 

If there is some other explanation, state health officials haven't offered it. But they did send me a link to a vomit of useless data and charts.  

We know the Whitmer administration didn't bother to count the nursing home deaths accurately. What ever became of that?

And because of that, there's no telling who is dying now, where they live or whether the state is invested in protecting them. All we really know is that more people are dead from COVID this year than ever before.

If Michigan’s officials won’t do their jobs, it’s time for the experts from the CDC and special agents from the DOJ to get to the bottom of this. If they don’t, we may never know what COVID did to Michiganians and what it still may do if it peaks again this fall.

Charlie LeDuff is a columnist for The Detroit News and host of "The No BS News Hour." His column appears on Wednesdays. Steve Delie of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy contributed.