As Hurricane Florence approaches the Carolinas, our Twitter-fingered President decided it was an ideal time to remark on the death-toll in Puerto Rico due to Hurricane Maria. His outright denial and repugnance in the face of calamity and hardship was vilified in his tweet on September 13th, 2018. For a person with this high of influence to speak in terms of death toll statistics due to a natural disaster, and completely disparage the findings of George Washington University's Milken Institute of Public Health, speaks volumes.
It is the results of this study which elicit the true effects of the category five hurricane upon the 3.3 million inhabitants living on U.S. territory.
According to the study, the death toll was calculated based on an 8 percent population decrease after the hurricane, which caused one of the longest recorded power outages. This significant drop in population takes into consideration the number of people who fled the island and sought shelter on the mainland.
The estimates determined by the group account for a very important piece of information that was strategically left-out of the above-mentioned Tweet. Which is the death toll due to the aftermath of the storm—in the long term. Simply arriving at the disaster zone days after does not allow for adequate assessment of the extent of destruction left in the wake of the storm. The conclusory statement upheld in this tweet ultimately provides loose claims that deny the full extent of population displacement and death.
It is simple disillusionment that is ultimately disrespectful to the people of Puerto Rico and may lead to further distrust of reputable public health organizations such as the Milken Institute of Public Health. This literal ripple effect may occur before our very eyes as the reality of Hurricane Florence reaches fruition.
It is worrisome to me, as a masters student in an accredited public health program, that we are being told by the highest entity in our governing system to ignore facts collected by biostatisticians, epidemiologists, demographers, and doctors that their findings are unsubstantiated and influenced by political agendas.
As they say, always check your sources.
Here is a link to the Milken Institute's Ascertainment of the Estimated Excess Mortality from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.