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Four Years Later, Indiana Attorney General Corrects Governor’s Inflated Covid Data

The Indiana Department of Health overreported Covid-19 infections by a factor of six in 2020, says Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita.

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On the four-year anniversary of Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb’s stay-at-home orders, state Attorney General Todd Rokita gathered with Hoosiers who had fought the mandates and told them something most of them knew already: Indiana’s Covid-19 data was wrong.

The stats that Holcomb and his state health commissioner Kris Box used to justify the lockdowns inflated death counts and positivity rates, Rokita told his audience. Bad data like those led to bad decisions.

Rokita unveiled his “Analysis of Covid-19” report in the upstairs of a South Bend-area Mexican restaurant, an establishment that made news in 2021 when nearby University of Notre Dame students were chastised and investigated for fraternizing at the bar and grill to get a break from onerous campus restrictions.

“Dr. Anthony Fauci, who oversaw much of the federal government’s initial COVID-19 response, admitted this year that many directives, such as six-foot distancing, ‘sort of just appeared’ rather than being rooted in research. The same appears true of data and policies developed here in Indiana,” Rokita read from his report. The crowd booed at the mention of Fauci’s name.

Rokita’s goal, as his report said, was to “revisit some wrongs so they can be made right.” A review was sorely missing after Covid-19 lockdowns that saw unprecedented numbers of restaurants and businesses permanently close, churches seal their doors, school kids suffer devastating learning loss, constitutional rights ignored, vaccine mandates put into place, and suicide and depression cases climb. 

Those gathered to hear Rokita’s findings—local elected officials, activists, anti-lockdown candidates for office, even a radio host—applauded him. They were grateful that after all this time, someone in Indiana was providing oversight of the governor and health departments that had tormented them with Covid orders. South Bend’s county health department inflicted the first mask mandate in Indiana on local residents—a government order that the county’s health officer later admitted was illegal.

Governor Denies Any Mistakes Whatsoever

Rokita wanted to make the findings of his report public in South Bend, because it was there on a local TV station in December 2021 that he had publicly questioned Holcomb’s Covid-19 figures. “Well, you know, first of all, I don’t believe any numbers anymore,” Rokita said in the interview on WSBT 22. “And, I’m sorry about that, but this has been politicized.”

The governor hit back: “Anyone that is spreading misinformation or disinformation regarding our reporting — to me is just, I believe, just attempting to fan the flames of confusion,” Holcomb said, “and that’s exactly what we don’t need at this time. If someone has a question, they need to raise that question with us, and we will answer it.”

With the report he commissioned, Rokita sought to prove his skepticism right. His key findings included what he called “vastly inflated” death counts. People who had died from drownings, automobile deaths, and overdoses, for instance, were listed as Covid-19 deaths, even though the virus wasn’t the cause. The Indiana Department of Health overreported those deaths by 10.9 percent in 2020; 7 percent in 2021; and 12.5 percent in 2022, he said. The state also never accounted for deaths that occurred as a result of its lockdown policies.

Rokita also discovered what he said were “unsound” Covid-19 positivity rates. That figure, he said, “soared over 30 percent during several months of 2020,” but his analysis from several studies found that the state’s positivity rate was under 5 percent throughout 2020. He blamed the errors on counting every test as a separate case (although one sick patient often tested several times) and the failure to do randomly selected testing. 

Worse Consequences for Lockdowns than Covid

With faulty data, the state’s Department of Health imposed what Rokita called “draconian lockdowns on purportedly free citizens, with the latter proving even more destructive than the havoc wreaked by the public health crisis itself.” The report pointed to the systematic review and meta-analysis of Johns Hopkins University that said lockdowns and other mitigation policies lowered Covid-19 mortality only by an estimated 0.2 percent on average, while causing “enormous economic and social harms.”

Despite all its mitigation attempts, Indiana failed to show success. It ranked 31st among states in Covid deaths and 29th for job loss. In September 2022, Indiana’s health department released a study showing that three out of every 10 Indiana students said they had considered suicide. 

Nationally, statistics are just as dismal. As Rokita highlighted in his report, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention research shows that Covid mandates caused more deaths among 18- to 45-year-olds than Covid-19 did, such as from suicide, overdoses, and alcoholism. Furthermore, he noted, 13-year-olds across America saw reading test scores drop severely and math scores sink by “the largest margin ever recorded on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.”  Children who fall behind in school almost never recover, leading to lost earnings and health for a lifetime.

Rewarding the Bureaucracies That Damaged Kids

The oversight role Rokita performed with his report provides some satisfaction to Hoosiers still seeking answers from the Holcomb administration for mishandling Covid, including imposing a two-year public health emergency, frequent school disruptions, and long-lasting mask mandates on school children. A previous attempt to review Holcomb’s Covid response was unsuccessful.

Last April, the Indiana House of Representatives passed an amendment to establish a coronavirus task force: “Before we plow another $220 million into the public health system, we owe it to our constituents to do a review of the two-year COVID emergency: What we did well, what we didn’t do well, what legal authorities were properly used, which ones were improperly used, which ones maybe were underused. I think it will make us all wiser moving forward,” said amendment author and state Rep. Chris Jeter, a Republican. 

But a task force didn’t happen. Instead, the Republican-controlled General Assembly pushed through Holcomb’s request for the biggest increase to public health funding ever in Indiana, essentially rewarding the state health department for its Covid missteps. Jeter’s measure got left on the legislative cutting room floor. 

Now, almost a year later, Rokita recommends that the state health department use some of that huge boost in funding to pay for an independent assessment of the state’s Covid -19 response. 

Hundreds of Thousands of Lockdown Deaths

Rokita is not alone in revisiting Covid and its disastrous effects four years later, and seeking better public health decision-making in the future. Dr. Scott Atlas, a coronavirus adviser under President Donald Trump, and a team of other experts just released “Covid Lessons Learned: A Retrospective After Four Years.” 

It consists of ten lessons. Number one is, “Leaders Should Calm Public Fears, Not Stoke Them.” The report notes that “Non-COVID excess deaths from lockdowns and societal panic are estimated at about 100,000 per year in the United States and zero in non-lockdown Sweden.”

Like others reviewing the past, Rokita knows Indiana’s data and mitigation errors need to be corrected to ensure that tragedies associated with government health policies do not repeat. While the governor says he has no regrets and is “comfortable” with the decisions his bureaucracy made, lockdown mistakes must never be forgotten—or repeated. 

State officials, Rokita said, “must refuse the notion that pandemics require a choice between saving lives and the economy and acknowledge that the two are interdependent.”


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