It will take years before the health, economic and social impact can be fully measuredof the Covid-19 pandemic. From the effect on the urban model – New York, for example, has a good part of its office buildings unoccupied and many companies have decided to definitively adopt teleworking – to the long-term impact on mental health or educational development Of children who have been left for months without being able to go to school, the pandemic is a shock that goes beyond the tragic bill in human losses and the economic cost caused by the restrictions.
In the US there is already evidence that covid has been the accelerator of
Some structural dramas that the country suffers, such as violence or the overdose epidemic. In both cases, there have been record increases in cases, which cannot be explained only by the pandemic, but in which there is no doubt that it has played a role.
This same week, the FBI confirmed with data the reality that was perceived throughout the United States last year and, in the absence of being certified by the statistics, also in this: the skyrocketing rise in violent deaths. In 2020, homicides and murders grew 30 percent in the United States, the largest rise since the FBI began compiling the national count in the 1960s. According to its data, 21,570 people died violently in the country, almost five thousand more than the previous year.
The wave of violence is still far from the lead years from the late eighties and early nineties, when it was close to ten murder deaths per 100,000 inhabitants (now there are 6.5), but it is a radical increase.
Many make a partisan interpretation of the causes of this escalation: Democrats focus on blaming to the exponential increase of weapons on the streets of the US, as part of their legislative efforts to control their access; Republicans put the emphasis on restricting Police departments to do their job.
“The predictable outcome The fact that there were fewer police officers is that in 2020 more violent crimes will be recorded, ” The Wall Street Journal, the country’s main conservative newspaper, declared in an editorial.
The explanation is probably more complex, and includes those and other interlocking factors. It is significant that the total statistic for major crimes – which includes other non-violent crimes, such as robberies – fell 5 percent last year.
Experts speak of a “perfect storm” that has led to this wave of violence. The repercussions of George Floyd’s death, the last case of police abuse towards the black minority. The episode unleashed chain effects: calls in the street for “cuts” or “abolition” of the Police, push for reforms in departments to change police work, demoralization of agents due to lack of support from authorities, and denouncement of functions or loss of confidence of the population in the Police.
The latter is what some criminologists call like the ‘Ferguson effect’, alluding to the repercussions of the death of Michael Brown at the hands of the police in Ferguson (Missouri) in 2014. That case caused a loss of legitimacy in the Police, fewer actions by the agents, fewer seizures of weapons and an increase in the number of 17 percent of homicides in US cities the following year.
The latest increase has caused historical records of violent deaths in several American cities, from different regions and diverse demographics, such as Albuquerque (New Mexico), Des Moines (Iowa), Memphis (Tennessee) or Milwaukee (Wisconsin). Cities are the usual focus of violent deaths, but data shows that they have grown similarly in suburbs and rural areas.
Weapons and addiction
That is one of the signs that the increase is not explained only as a reaction to the Floyd case and the changes in the police forces. Other,
the increase in arms – the Democrats’ favorite reason – has been a fact of the pandemic. With fear and uncertainty by social isolation and restrictionsArms sales skyrocketed, with weeks selling more than a million, an all-time high. The percentage of U.S. homes with guns jumped from 32 percent in 2016 to 39 percent last year, even though it had been flat in recent decades. And a fifth of those who bought guns last year were doing so for the first time.
Last year also broke the record for the percentage of violent deaths with firearms: were 77 percent, ten points more than a decade ago.
Violent death on the streets of the United States has been superimposed since last spring on the tragic layer of the pandemic’s bill – in the worst weeks of the crisis, in cities like New York, what was heard most were the ambulance sirens- and to the opiate epidemic. In the last two decades, images of addicts attacked by overdoses have become a common sight in the country, from marginal areas of large cities – this summer a video that showed one of them in Philadelphia, with hundreds of people, went viral. injecting themselves or in search of drugs – to towns of deteriorated industrial regions.
It is difficult to measure what impact the pandemic will have had on this wave of violent deaths. Criminologists point out that factors such as stress or boredom Due to the social isolation and restrictions of the pandemic they can foster frustration or anger that influences crime. The forced quarantines of many agents due to being infected are also cited.
In the case of overdoses, the impact is more direct. In 2020, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), they also increased by 30 percent, to 93,300 deaths, the highest record in history. “In the pandemic, many drug assistance programs were unable to operate. Treating people on the street was very difficult. People were very isolated“Joshua Sharfstein, an expert in health policy at Johns Hopkins University, told Reuters. The cycle of isolation, anxiety, depression, and drug use was reinforced by confinement. And the restrictions ended practices that put a patch on overdoses, such as needle exchange programs, methadone treatment, ‘safe’ places to prick with volunteers armed with Narcan, a drug to resuscitate those affected, or group or individual therapies. for addicts.
Most dangerous drugs
At the same time also other factors concurred. According to Nora Volkow, from the National Institute of Drug Addiction, “the kinds of drugs that are now available are much more dangerous.”
The opioid epidemic, caused in the 1990s by the indiscriminate prescription of these substances, has been driven in recent years by drug cartels, which introduce massive amounts of their own drugs. fentanyl productions, a drug for the treatment of pain, which is estimated to be between eighty and one hundred times more potent than heroin. Drug traffickers sometimes mix them with cocaine and methamphetamine to increase their effect. Opioids, according to the CDC, are behind 74.7 percent of overdose deaths in the past year.
As with violent deaths, the overdose epidemic affects very different states: the oldest percentage increases in deaths they have been in states like Vermont, Kentucky, West Virginia or California. And, unlike with the covid pandemic, where deaths have plummeted in regions with high vaccination rates, this epidemic does not see the light at the end of the tunnel.