Yes, Nearly 3,000 Died After Hurricane Maria; No, Trump Isn’t to Blame
Yes, Nearly 3,000 Died After Hurricane Maria; No, Trump Isn’t to Blame
If you haven’t heard, today’s unhinged Democrat screeching is brought to you courtesy of President Trump’s Twitter reply about a recently released George Washington University study that estimates deaths in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria were much higher than initially assessed. The left, of course, attributed the nearly 3,000 deaths to the Trump Administration’s supposedly “failed” response, while Trump took to Twitter to condemn the study as biased against him personally.
I have to wonder if anyone on either side of the political aisle actually bothered to read the study before engaging in demented shrieking. If you’re interested, the link to the full study is here. There are a few things the study examined that are relevant here.
One is why the mortality reporting after Hurricane Maria was so far off mark.
Another is an examination of how many excess deaths occurred post-Maria.
And a third is what could have been done differently in order to report information more accurately.
Here’s what the study does NOT do.
It doesn’t assign blame, and it doesn’t claim the Administration’s response was insufficient or lacking. In fact, it doesn’t mention the Trump Administration’s response at all.
The project had the following objectives: 1) assess the excess total mortality adjusting for demographic variables and seasonality, report a point estimate and confidence interval and make recommendations; 2) evaluate the implementation of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for mortality reporting in disasters and identify areas of opportunity for improvement; and 3) assess crisis and mortality communication plans and actions by the government as well as understand experiences and perceptions of key participant groups to make recommendations based on communications best practices.
In other words, the study focused on how many died in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, where the deaths occurred, why initial mortality reports were incorrect, and how to ensure that the reporting is more accurate dog forbid there’s a next time.
This had nothing to do with Trump, the administration’s response or the work of the thousands of dedicated military and civilian responders and volunteers who deployed to Puerto Rico to help.
So what did the findings show?
These were, in fact, three different studies under one umbrella.
Our excess mortality study analyzed past mortality patterns (mortality registration and population census data from 2010 to 2017) in order to predict the expected mortality if Hurricane Maria had not occurred (predicted mortality) and compare this figure to the actual deaths that occurred (observed mortality). The difference between those two numbers is the estimate of excess mortality due to the hurricane. We developed a series of generalized linear models (GLMs) with monthly data for the pre-hurricane period of July 2010-August 2017, accounting for trends in population size and distribution over this period in terms of age, sex, seasonality and residence by municipal level of socioeconomic development. Our estimates also considered Puerto Rico’s consistently high emigration during the prior decade and dramatic population displacement after the hurricane. We used the model results to project forward mortality that would have been expected if the hurricane had not occurred for two scenarios—if the population had not changed (census scenario), and explicitly accounting for massive post-hurricane population displacement from the island (displacement scenario). For observed mortality, we used records for all deaths occurring from September 2017-February 2018, provided by the Puerto Rico Vital Statistics Records (PRVSR) division of the Puerto Rico Department of Health (DoH). The estimates of excess all-cause mortality attributable to the hurricane are the result of comparing the projections for the census and displacement scenarios to observed mortality in the vital registration data.
In order to respond to the Puerto Rican Government’s query about how well CDC guidelines for mortality reporting in a disaster were followed, we conducted a two-part study to assess both the death certification process and the quality of death certificate data. We conducted interviews with 26 individuals involved in the death certification and registration process to understand procedures under normal conditions and whether and how these were affected after the hurricane. In addition, we reviewed legislation and manuals related to death certification in Puerto Rico, as well as literature on death certification in general and specifically in disasters.
Our third study assessed crisis and emergency risk communications by the Government of Puerto Rico before and after Hurricane Maria, with an emphasis on the communications plans in place at the time of the hurricane, trained staff dedicated to crisis and emergency risk communication, procedures for mortality reporting to the public, spokespeople interaction with the media and key participant perceptions of the government’s risk communication and mortality reporting. For the communication assessment methodology, instruments, and analytical framework, we applied established guidelines from CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) for communication in emergencies, which are supported by a robust scientific evidence base. We also applied principles from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Whole Community Approach for community-based emergency preparedness (FEMA 2011).
The study found that there was a population reduction of roughly 8 percent in the months after the hurricane hit and that mortality was slowly declining until August 2017, but that rates increased between September 2017 and February 2018. Well, duh! There were two hurricanes: Irma and Maria, ferpetessake!
The methodology seems sound, and the factors responsible for the disparity between initial mortality reports and the GW study’s estimates had nothing to do with Trump, the administration, or its response.
But each side has violent temper tantrums and apoplectic seizures at the thought of either being blamed for the deaths, or having no one to blame except the Puerto Rican government.
No, 3,000 people did not die IN the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico, as Trump claims. That’s not what the study said. They died in the AFTERMATH of the storms, which is a whole different assessment, and unsurprising given the fact that most of these deaths were elderly people in economically depressed areas of the island, who lacked basic necessities and generally are quite a bit more fragile than others. Yes, Hurricane Maria brought on these conditions, but if you do any research into the conditions on the island before Irma and Maria hit, you will see that the hurricanes merely exacerbated an already bad situation, causing numerous deaths.
Menendez’s accusation is false and downright moronic, given the fact that Puerto Rico was already having economic and infrastructure issues before the hurricanes hit. And yes, as I mentioned earlier, old people will be quicker to die if left without proper medical care, water, or electricity.
The administration’s response was actually decent – not without its flaws, but certainly better than what the shrieking Democrats suggest – despite Menendez’s impotent prevarications. More than 17,000 troops were deployed to help distribute supplies, repair the electrical grid, conduct search and rescue missions, and provide medical care. But there was a delayed response, because of something called the Posse Comitatus Act, which prohibits the military from performing domestic law enforcement duties.
This wasn’t Trump’s fault. The law was passed in 1878, although I guarantee you the left will try to somehow plop the responsibility at Trump’s feet. That’s why the deployment of support after the earthquake in Haiti by Obama was quicker than the mobilization to Puerto Rico, Sunny Hostin, you daft cow. Haiti is not in the United States; Puerto Rico is.
The deployment of 17,000 troops, 82 aircraft and three combat support hospitals was comparable in size to the U.S. military’s mission in the Philippines after 2013’s Typhoon Haiyan. There, 13,400 troops were deployed to some 450 disaster zones across the country.
As critics have observed, that is far smaller than the Haiti earthquake response, when 22,000 troops and 33 U.S. military ships were sent to the island.
This makes sense when given the death tolls of these various disasters, though. Some 230,000 people died in Haiti’s earthquake. Roughly 12,000 died in the Philippines. When the U.S. went to Puerto Rico, the government there maintained that just 16 people had died in the storm – though that would turn out to be a very low count.
Also, there were other factors at play. Downed communications lines, blocked roads, and lack of power hobbled coordination between the Defense Department and local officials, as well as impeded search and rescue efforts on the island. This wasn’t Trump’s fault either.
There was flooding, the power grid was destroyed, hospital backup generators were out, cell and land line service were nonexistent, and public service radios and 911 were also out. Given all these complications, the courageous government responders and volunteers who were sent to Puerto Rico had little with which to work.
Logistics were a challenge, because Puerto Rico is a tropical island, according to LTC John Cunningham of the Army Corps of Engineers. That’s not Trump’s fault.
…they need specific conductors and materials that can resist the tropical weather and there’s a limited number of suppliers available to purchase specific materials for the island.
And by the way, Puerto Rico’s corrupt, inept, and bankrupt Electric Power Authority (PREPA), failed to maintain the island’s electrical infrastructure. That wasn’t Trump’s fault either.
One of the reasons for a lack of inventory in the first place is PREPA’s financial woes. While a Category 5 hurricane like Maria was expected to cause massive damage, Puerto Rico’s bankrupt and greatly indebted public utility had not kept up with upgrading and modernizing its four-decade-old power plants, which mostly produce energy from burning imported oil.
For his part, Trump needs to understand that not everything is about him. The study conducted by GW used scientific methodologies to estimate a more correct number of fatalities in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria than what was provided by the inept Puerto Rican government, and the hesitation of physicians and others who filled out death certificates to attribute some deaths to the hurricane also contributed to the faulty estimations.
The official government estimate of 64 deaths from the hurricane is low primarily because the conventions used for causal attribution only allowed for classification of deaths attributable directly to the storm, e.g., those caused by structural collapse, flying debris, floods and drownings (see below). During our broader study, we found that many physicians were not oriented in the appropriate certification protocol. This translated into an inadequate indicator for monitoring mortality in the hurricane’s aftermath. Verification of attribution takes time, while excess mortality estimation is a more immediate indicator.
The study showed that physicians weren’t aware of how to properly certify deaths “and the Government of Puerto Rico’s lack of communication about death certificate reporting prior to the 2017 hurricane season substantially limited the count of deaths related to María.”
Maybe both sides of the political aisle could shut up, read the report, and stop using this tragedy to further their idiot politics.
I, for one, am sick and tired of listening to them vomit garbage from their blowholes.
Featured photo courtesy of: Alvin Baez/Reuters