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The NY Times says Tommy Lanza, 41, died of Covid. So why does his obituary specifically say he didn't?
And even after two years, why is finding anyone under 50 who died of Covid (and wasn't profoundly obese or ill) so hard?
(NOTE: This is the full story for the headline I accidentally emailed yesterday.)
On Tuesday, the New York Times offered what feels like its 12-millionth sob story about Covid, the disease worse than all the others.
This time, the Times wrote about grandparents forced into raising their grandchildren following the Covid deaths of their own children.
As Families Grieve, Grandparents Step Up
Given the age distribution of Covid deaths, this take is particularly cynical. Drug overdoses and violence are far more likely to kill young parents.
Still, the Times dragged out a statistic from a group called Covid Collaborative, a “non-partisan group” (uh-huh) of “experts in public health” (you paid good money for those PhDs!) who want “to defeat the pandemic” (about that) and “sustainably and safety reopen the country” (“sustainably” is the giveaway they will be reaching DEEP into your pockets).
Anyway, the Times said that Covid Collaborative had reported in December that 167,000 children “had lost a parent or primary caregiver to the pandemic.”
Read that fast and it sounds like 167,000 parents died of Covid in 2020 and 2021. Which would be a lot.
Here’s what the report actually said. First, the Covid Collaborators didn’t count parental deaths at all. They guessed how many people who died of Covid might have had children, based on national household surveys.
Ignore the fact that the number was simply an estimate, though. The report still didn’t say that 167,000 parents had died of Covid. It counted the number of children who had lost “parents, custodial grandparents, or other caregivers.”
The number of children who had a parent die was about 70,000, according to the report. But that figure doesn’t translate into 70,000 parents dying either. These were kids, not parents - meaning the death of a parent with five kids would pump the report by five deaths.
So how many parents have died of Covid? The report never offers any estimate - but it appears to be between 20,000 and 30,000. Even that estimate will be biased high. Young people who die of Covid are much more likely to have severe chronic health conditions and thus less likely to have kids.
But even 30,000 is a long way from 167,000, and is almost certainly less than the number of parents who have died in traffic accidents since Covid began.
Which may explain why the Times seems to have struggled to find parents who fit the profile it needed. Remember, this story was a feature, meaning the reporter didn’t have deadline pressure and could take as much time as she needed to find cases.
So why did she include Thomas Lanza, a 41-year-old teacher from Staten Island, NY, with two young children?
According to the Times: [In October 2020], Thomas Lanza, 41, a high school special education teacher, died of Covid-19 with shocking swiftness; he didn’t survive the ambulance ride to the hospital.
This version of events would indeed be shocking, given that in those very rare cases when Covid does kill people under 50, it almost never does so quickly.
And it is not how Lanza’s death was reported at the time. The local Staten Island newspaper went out of its way in his obituary to explain that he had died of pneumonia, he had NOT died of COVID-19. (It also said he had died at home, not in an ambulance.)
Further, a GoFundMe page for Lanza’s family, which linked to the article, also makes no mention of Covid - even though explaining that a person under 50 had died of the coronavirus was a surefire way to attract attention and donations in 2020.
All of which is to say that Lanza may not be the best example of a parent torn from his kids by Covid.
But for the Times’s purposes, he’ll do just fine.