Lansing: Save the grandparents, kill the grandchildren

Michigan’s political response to COVID-19 will prove lethal to the most vulnerable of our population — the young and the poor.

To her initial credit, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration forced a temporary lockdown on Michigan when COVID-19 first struck. At the time, data from China was shown to be falsified, making COVID-19 an epidemiological unknown for a few weeks.

The lockdown was far too prolonged.

When public health officials spoke of flattening the curve, those familiar with population health properly heard “spreading infections out over time so we have enough hospital beds” and that is precisely what happened. For anyone who took high school geometry, recall no one said they would reduce the area under the curve.

COVID-19, a RNA virus, mutates with each infection, meaning there will be many infection surges until the population develops some herd immunity while the virus regresses toward a milder norm. Lansing failed to understand population health stems from two key points distinguishing it from public health: chronology from all life-year associated factors and complete population consideration.

Lansing’s response was chronologically shortsighted.

Once the equipment needed by hospitals had been procured and the people educated, strict lockdown was unnecessary and heavy-handed. The result was destruction of Michigan’s economy, thereby throwing Millennials and Generation Z into poverty, where many will remain for the rest of their now-shortened lives.

The fact is that a woman in poverty will die 15 years earlier than that same woman with an average income. Indeed, life expectancy shortens for each decile decrease in income — nearly all of Michigan’s workers had their lives shortened by this economic shuttering.

In short, by “protecting” chronically ill elderly persons (most of whom were fated to die shortly, regardless), Lansing threw their grandchildren into poverty and an earlier grave.

Of the social determinants of health, poverty is the strongest and impacts women and children the most.

Lansing showed no consideration for the complete population.

Isolating specific businesses without compelling data, as was done with health clubs, is irresponsible and warrants replacing public health officials providing such ill-founded counsel. Singling out health clubs is simply wrongheaded. The biggest driver of COVID- 19 mortality is morbid obesity.

For risk surveillance, an informed recommendation would be to keep health clubs open but restrict the number of aerobic activities, the only activities likely to generate aerosolized particles spreading COVID-19.

Worse, by the time the extensive restrictions were renewed, it was well known that most infections do not result in hospitalization, much less death, and those at extremely high risk were identified and informed so that they could make the personal decisions to socially distance.

In context, six times as many people died of heart disease than COVID-19 — where is Lansing’s decree making illegal all non-vegan food products?

Why stop there?

Motor vehicle deaths could be eliminated if we closed all automobile-related industries.

We live in a society where we are allowed to take personal risks. We are duly informed about eliminating personal risk if we choose.

However, it is abhorrent to forbid personal choice from all people to protect a tiny minority and expect the working poor, mainly women, to pay the ultimate price with shortened lives.

That we have done this is simply economic fact borne out in the literature. While the full extent of the economic destruction and impoverishment of our working poor will not be fully realized for years, this persistence of unethical government restrictions disproportionately impacting the poor unveils an utter disregard for true population health.

Dr. Allan P. Frank is an assistant professor at Wayne State University School of Medicine and Detroit Medical Center. This reflects his opinion, not that of the university or medical center.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)