Tuesday, May 26, 2020


I noticed last week that the Washington Examiner, a wingnut talking-point distributor disguised as a newspaper, ran a story called "California doctors say they've seen more deaths from suicide than coronavirus since lockdowns." The plural is interesting, as the story contains quotes from only one actual doctor -- Dr. Michael deBoisblanc of John Muir Medical Center. The only other California medical personnel quoted is Kacey Hansen, "a trauma center nurse" at the same institution. (Conservatives have a massive hate-on for liberal California, and love to intimate that it is full of people who agree with them but are trapped in a dystopian hell by Gavin Newsom and his homosexual army. "California doctor says" doesn't put that vision over so well.)

Hansen merely expresses regret that her trauma center is seeing "so much intentional injury," while deBoisblanc seems to at least lean toward the obvious point of the Examiner article -- that the stay-at-home orders to protect public health are now counterproductive and should be ended ("originally, this was put in place to flatten the curve... our other community health is suffering").

The story is padded out with references to data showing that the stress of living in the pandemic is bad. One source is what could be generously called a meta-analysis from Just Facts, an organization probably best known for claiming that as many at 5.7 million ineligible voters cast ballots in the 2008 election; its current paper, "Anxiety From Reactions to Covid-19 Will Destroy At Least Seven Times More Years of Life Than Can Be Saved by Lockdowns," has also been promoted in another WashEx story.

There's also a reference to a "letter to President Trump" signed by 600 doctors (featuring, a quick scan reveals, members of the crackpot Association of American Physicians and Surgeons) "referring to the continued lockdowns as a 'mass casualty incident' and urging him to do what he can to ensure they come to an end."

I, too, would love to see an end to the lockdowns, though I would prefer Trump and his government achieve that by extending sufficient financial resources to our citizens that they will not be driven to reenter public spaces and workplaces before it's prudent to do so, and devote sufficient public health efforts to ensure that when we do unlock, we do so without unleashing a deadly second virus wave, as most Western European countries have managed but which we, despite our vaunted wealth, cannot.

Meanwhile the Examiner story has been spread by many other outlets -- some with headlines like the Examiner's that also claim multiple California doctors' input, though some are compiled and edited more attentively. If you're mad at those dummies crowding up the pools and bars over Memorial Day weekend, at least spare a dark thought for the ones who spur them on.

UPDATE, 5/27: Funny thing about Dr. deBoisblanc's claims:
But in an interview with BuzzFeed News, deBoisblanc said his comment about the hospital seeing "a year's worth of suicide attempts in the last four weeks" was inaccurate. He added that at the time he didn't know what the true numbers were... 
Numbers provided by the hospital and the coroner's office also show that the "sharp rise" in suicides initially claimed by deBoisblanc, which alarmed political pundits criticizing quarantine orders, were either overblown or outright false. According to the hospital, it has seen five suicide deaths during the county's shelter-in-place order, compared to two suicide deaths during the same period last year. In general, Contra Costa County sees about 100 suicide deaths per year, and officials said that that's remained stable so far in 2020. 
"If you look at it from a contextual standpoint, I think it's accurate," deBoisblanc told BuzzFeed News when asked whether the number of suicide attempts treated at the hospital was actually unprecedented. "If you contextualize in concrete numbers fashion, it's not accurate."
"Contextualize in concrete numbers fashion" is perfect for this era, isn't it? Kudos to Buzzfeed News for running it down; most of us don't have time for that sort of thing, which is how bullshit like deBoisblanc's circulates in the first place.

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