When Campbell’s Law Collides with COVID-19

For those who are new to the blog, Campbell’s Law, formulated by Donald Campbell, states, “The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.”

Believe it or not, this is not a post about Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (we make the funny!). Not entirely anyway (boldface mine):

Tens of thousands of Covid-19 deaths are going unreported in the U.S., with far more missed in counties that strongly supported former President Trump, according to new research.

The figures suggest that political leanings have helped suppress the true scale of deaths. In cases where the deceased didn’t have a Covid-19 test, a coroner or medical examiner has the freedom to interpret symptoms.

“There’s potentially latitude to make a judgement call conditional on a set of beliefs about Covid and whether it represents a serious problem or a hoax,” said Andrew Stokes, a professor of global health at Boston University School of Public Health who performed the analysis for STAT…

In areas where the pandemic is downplayed or seen as a myth, the death reporting process leaves room for those who don’t take Covid-19 seriously to leave the virus off death certificates. Covid-19 is typically the underlying cause of death, leading to conditions such as pneumonia or a heart attack that is the more direct cause. In cases where someone hasn’t been tested, coroners are free to attribute a death to the more direct condition, and leave Covid-19 out entirely.

In figure format:

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This also compounded by government is structured in Trump counties–local coroners, who are often elected, are far more likely to attribute deaths to causes other than COVID-19. This leads to regional disparities:

Screen Shot 2021-01-27 at 7.50.06 PM

As I’ve said many times on the blog, usually regarding the problem of antibiotic resistance, we do not have a healthcare system. We have multiple healthcare systems, and they differ greatly in how committed they are to accurate reporting, and how insulated they are from political pressures.

It’s not the biggest problem we face, but it’s certainly not helping.

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2 Responses to When Campbell’s Law Collides with COVID-19

  1. Funny how trumpsters say that the death counts due to COVID are being reported as higher than they really are. I hear this all the time. They do not want to know the truth whatsoever.

  2. We do not have a healthcare system. We have multiple health insurance systems whose only goal is maximizing how much money they can abstract from you. Your life and well being are incidental afterthoughts at most.

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