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Protesting More Panic Porn

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Here’s a letter to CBS Radio News:

Sir or Madam:

During today’s 7:00am EDT broadcast (heard on WTOP radio in Washington, DC), your anchor reported – in the now-ubiquitous ominous tone – that the number of children admitted, with Covid, to hospitals since the arrival of the Delta variant “has increased five-fold.” This figure, alas, was presented without context. So allow me to serve as your unpaid research intern by providing such context.

Hospital admissions of Americans with Covid ages 0-17 were indeed approximately five times higher in mid-September 2021 than in mid-July 2021 [2]. Sounds terrifying! But the terror fades when we discover that the absolute number of such hospital admissions went, during this two-month period, from just over 70 to just shy of 400.*

There are in America today 72.7 million persons ages 0-17 [3]. Thus, the percentage of such Americans who were admitted to hospitals at the peak of Delta-variant hospitalizations (mid-September 2021) – that is, as a result of the “five-fold increase” sparked by the Delta variant – is 0.00055.

Now let’s compare the number of American children admitted with Covid to hospitals in mid-September 2021 with the number of American children hospitalized for other causes. In 2012 [4] – the latest year for which I can find good data – the number of American children (excluding newborns and pregnant girls) hospitalized for the top eight reasons was 1.4 million. On average, then, during any day in 2012, the number of children who were hospitalized for one or more of these eight reasons was approximately 3,836. Because there’s no reason to believe that 2012 was an unusual year, the upshot is that the percentage of American children daily admitted to hospitals at the peak of the five-fold increase sparked by the Delta variant is only about 10 percent of the number of children normally hospitalized in the U.S. during any typical day.

Therefore, the hyped ‘five-fold increase’ in children admitted to hospitals with Covid as a result of the Delta variant is a true statistic used by you to create a grotesquely false impression.

Are you not ashamed to peddle panic porn?

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
and
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030

* In 2021 there are 72.7 million Americans ages 0-17 [3]. Data from the CDC [2] show that in July 2021 approximately 0.1 of every 100,000 such Americans were admitted, with Covid, to hospitals. In mid-September 2021, approximately 0.5 of every 100,000 such Americans were admitted, with Covid, to hospitals. (Such hospital admissions have since fallen.) Hospital admissions of 0.1 of every 100,000 American children translates into hospital admissions of approximately 73 such Americans. Hospital admissions of 0.5 of every 100,000 American children translates into hospital admissions of approximately 364 such Americans.

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