Are COVID Restrictions the Cause of “Excess Deaths”?
By Levi Minderhoud
Soon after governments first introduced restrictions to combat the transmission of COVID-19, many people asked whether these measures would do more harm than good. We encouraged you to send an EasyMail to provincial legislators urging them not to neglect the impact of provincial policies on loneliness, substance abuse, domestic violence, economic dependency, among other problems. We have been worried that such restrictions may cause harm or even deaths through their unintended consequences. Many of you answered the call.
Have there been “excess deaths” in Canada?
Provincial governments and Statistics Canada have tracked monthly deaths in Canada for decades. Thus, it is easy to see whether death rates in a province have risen. We also know the number of COVID-related deaths in each province in each month. Everything else being equal, we should expect the number of people who died in, say, British Columbia in mid-March to April to be equal to the average number of people who die in British Columbia in mid-March to April in the past years plus any COVID deaths.
Unfortunately, everything else is not equal. Although 99 people died due to COVID-19 in the six weeks in mid-March to April, there were 386 more deaths than usual. This means that there were 287 non-COVID “excess deaths” during that time period in British Columbia.
This is not unique to British Columbia. Between February and May, there were 493 non-COVID excess deaths in Alberta. The final mortality tally has not been tabulated in Ontario and Quebec, but Statistics Canada says there are “early indications of excess mortality” in Ontario soon after COVID restrictions and lockdowns were enacted.
The cause of “excess deaths” is not known with certainty
I am not saying that all of these “excess deaths” have been directly or even indirectly caused by governmental restrictions or lockdowns. These deaths may have occurred entirely by coincidence, though that seems very unlikely. Many of the deaths could have also been due to individuals’ voluntary responses to the virus. For example, although governments did not close emergency rooms during the pandemic, the number of ER visits plummeted during the pandemic. Some people undoubtedly passed away because they were afraid to visit the ER during this time period. Still other excess deaths may actually have been caused by COVID directly, where the person was never diagnosed with COVID. In other words, it’s possible the virus killed more people than we think.
I am also not saying that all governmental restrictions and lockdowns do more harm than good. In the complete absence of a public health response by provincial governments, thousands of more people may have contracted COVID-19 and passed away from the virus. Such an outcome was certainly widely predicted by public health experts, statisticians, and models. Although there may be good cause to doubt the assumptions that undergirded these predictions, it is impossible to know exactly how many lives have been saved by these restrictions and lockdowns.
Governments must consider possible unintended consequences
What I am saying is that governments of all stripes must consider the possible unintended consequences of their actions. Thus far, I have seen no modelling or concrete evaluations by provincial governments on the effect of restrictions and lockdowns on, say, drug use. Yet, June was the worse month on record for drug overdose deaths in British Columbia, many of which may have been spurred by loneliness and isolation exacerbated by provincial government policies. Similar spikes in suicide rates or spousal abuse or postponed surgeries or delayed diagnoses may also be directly attributable to COVID-19 restrictions.
Based on the number of excess deaths reported by Statistics Canada, I think that it is likely that provincial restrictions and lockdowns have caused real harm to thousands of Canadians. As borne out by the data, this harm isn’t some mere emotional or mental hardship or even physical hurt; people have died.
Politicians, public health officials, the media, the society at large, and even Christians as well often have very limited attention spans. We focus on one problem to the exclusion of others for one moment and then we refocus on another problem the next. A COVID obsession may make us forget that our nation is aborting thousands of babies and euthanizing hundreds of adults every month, damaging children’s bodies through sex-change treatments, incurring hundreds of billions of dollars in debt, undermining marriage and family, and allowing rampant pornography creation and consumption, among other issues. Let us put all these things into their proper, eternal perspective and continue to fight the good fight.
Levi Minderhoud is the British Columbia Manager for ARPA Canada