Looking Back at 2020: Comparing Two Epidemics

I rarely discuss politics on my blog. Actually, this is my first ever politics post! Here at the end of 2020, the United States has reached an incredible milestone and it needs to be said.

The other day I saw this video on Facebook, shared by Representative Carolyn Maloney of New York. This was a hearing with members of the Sackler family, who own Purdue Pharma.

The reason for the hearing is that Purdue Pharma has been held liable for having responsibility in causing what’s been widely and unanimously called the opioid crisis or opioid epidemic. This hearing was held to examine the personal role of family members in their company’s opioid crisis and whether they acted in such a way to avoid compensating their victims.

…There is no excuse for what you did.”

Representative James Comer

During the hearing it was reported that politicians from the left and the right agreed that the family’s actions were reprehensible. From the Dec 17 Reuter’s article, Sacklers apologize but deflect blame at U.S. congressional opioid hearing:

Representative James Comer, the committee’s top Republican, emphasized he was pro-business.

“But there are bad actors,” Comer said. “And to the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma, let me be as clear as I can be: You all are bad actors. And there is no excuse for what you did.”

It seems kind of rare to find political agreement these days. However, despite political disagreements, everyone seems to agree that there has been an opioid epidemic for the past several years. And not only that, there appears to be widespread agreement, including from left- and right-leaning politicians, that this family should be held to account for their role in creating the situation.

And yet….

Sadly, so much about the 2020 coronavirus pandemic has become so politicized and there is far less agreement about who should be held responsible and what actions the government should take. We all agree that there’s an opioid crisis, yet many people still don’t take the coronavirus seriously.

The other day, I heard a program on the radio where a reporter said that while he had a visceral, emotional response to September 11, 2001, he said he doesn’t feel the same now. This is despite the fact that on some days, more people pass from the coronavirus than from the terrorist attacks. It’s like people can’t put 300,000+ into perspective.

Comparing the numbers

After I watching this video, I started thinking about how opioid deaths related to COVID-19 deaths. Right now, we’re over 300,000 lost. I just started doing a search for answers to find out the two mass casualty events compare: “opioid deaths 2019”, “opioid deaths 2018”, etc.

I went back as far as I could find numbers for individual years. Around 2010-2013, the numbers were kind of lumped together. While I don’t know what 2013 was, I know it was less than 2014. So, I took 2014 and lopped off the end for 28,000.

Here are the numbers I found:

Opioid related overdose deaths from 2013 – 2019.
  • Total opioid deaths: 276,431.
  • Total COVID-19 deaths (Dec 30, 2020): 341,000+.

In one year, we’ve managed to surpass the total number of opioid-related deaths from the past 7 years, combined. In my first draft of this COVID deaths are well over 300,000. I considered not even writing a number because it gets surpassed every day.

I find this really depressing and sad. It seems almost inevitable that someone in your family will be a victim of this situation.

I really wonder if our politicians will hold accountable the people who helped the US get to where it is with COVID, in the same way the Sackler family is being held responsible for their roles in the opioid crisis. Of course, this would require that they litigate themselves, so they probably will not anytime soon.

Anyway, I sincerely hope those who made to the end of 2020 will make it to the end of 2021. It takes little thinking about those who we’ve lost to help focus on what really matters right now.

Good luck!!