All of the coronavirus deaths in Maryland last month were unvaccinated

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

It’s hard not to read this headline from yesterday’s Washington Post without thinking that somebody was trying to send a message. “All Marylanders who died of covid in June were unvaccinated, data shows.” And as messages go, that one isn’t terribly subtle, is it? We could sit here and match a headline like this one up with the timing of Joe Biden’s new push to have government representatives go door to door trying to convince people to get vaccinated, but that’s probably not necessary. Hey, the numbers are what they are, right? So I suppose we should take a quick look at them.

Unvaccinated people made up all of Maryland’s reported coronavirus deaths last month, as well as the vast majority of new cases and hospitalizations, the state reported Tuesday — data that public health officials say demonstrates the effectiveness of vaccines.

The numbers come as experts try to persuade the vaccine-hesitant to get shots and protect themselves against a virus that has killed more than 22,000 people in the region and nearly 4 million worldwide.

Across the region, the seven-day average of new infections was 256 on Tuesday, a number which has ticked up over the past three weeks, but is down from 331 one month ago, state and D.C. data show. Hospitalizations and deaths are also down.

Let’s just acknowledge upfront that the overall theme of this report is in keeping with all of the medical research we’ve been covering here this year. If you are fully vaccinated, particularly with the Pfizer or Moderna doses, your odds of catching COVID have dropped drastically. And even if you do, you’re probably going to develop a very mild case of it, with only a handful of people in that category requiring hospitalization. So if all the Maryland COVID deaths last month were among the unvaccinated we probably shouldn’t act surprised.

At the same time, if you are unvaccinated and catch COVID, unless you are in one of the very high-risk groups, the odds are massively in your favor that you won’t die either. You probably have a bit higher chance of requiring hospitalization, but your odds of walking away afterward (with your own new antibodies to boot) are well up in the 90s. But since we’re playing a numbers game here, we should probably look at what the actual figures are.

Reading through that WaPo article, you don’t find much in the way of data. They offer the seven-day average of new cases for this month, which is down by almost half from last month. When they finally get around to mentioning the number of deaths in June it works out to slightly more than 100. For the entire month. In a state with a population of more than six million. Even if you want to restrict your analysis to only the unvaccinated, they comprise 46% of the population, or right around three million.

I’m not trying to minimize the loss felt by the families of those who passed away, but just let those numbers sink in for a minute. Out of a pool of three million unvaccinated people, they lost a little more than 100 in 31 days. They’re not exactly dropping like flies.

You can get even more of a feel for the general direction that Maryland is taking by looking at the daily and weekly breakdown. If you scan along the timeline, the daily number of COVID deaths measured on a running, seven-day average is almost always either two or three.

Another number that doesn’t show up in the WaPo’s calculations is the survival rates and totals. Yes, they’ve vaccinated an impressive number of people, but there are almost one-half million more who had COVID and survived. All of those people have antibodies too.

The bottom line here is that the WaPo’s headline from yesterday is, as near as I can tell, completely accurate in terms of the numbers. But at the same time, it carries a certain tone of news that’s being delivered by the Ghost of Christmas Future, and that may really not be justified. The vast majority of the people who are currently still waiting to be vaccinated or flat-out refusing are younger, healthier people. If there’s a new, huge surge in cases, it’s mostly going to be them coming down with it and more than 99% of them will survive. And – again – they’ll come out the other side with antibodies of their own.

It’s summertime. People are moving past this. Stop trying to frighten everyone to death, please.

Jazz Shaw Aug 17, 2022 11:01 AM ET