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Virus could kill 75,000 Americans from ‘despair’

As many as 75,000 Americans could die because of drug or alcohol misuse and suicide as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, according to an analysis conducted by the national public health group Well Being Trust.

The growing unemployment crisis, economic downturns and stress caused by isolation and lack of a definitive end date for the pandemic could significantly increase so-called “deaths of despair” unless local, state and federal authorities take action, the group says in a new report released Friday.

“Unless we get comprehensive federal, state, and local resources behind improving access to high-quality mental health treatments and community supports, I worry we’re likely to see things get far worse when it comes to substance misuse and suicide,” Well Being Trust’s chief strategy officer Dr. Benjamin F. Miller said.

The Well Being trust released maps showing state and county level projections of these types of deaths, based on data from past years, due to Covid-19’s impact on unemployment, isolation and uncertainty.

The group is calling for a robust approach from local, state and federal officials and agencies to help those who lose their jobs because of the pandemic to find work.

What happened in 2008: Deaths from both suicide and drug overdoses rose along with unemployment during the 2008 recession. Unemployment went from 4.6% in 2007 to a peak of 10% in October 2009 and declined steadily, reaching 3.5% in early 2010, according to the group.

2020 could be much worse.

White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett said on Tuesday he expects the US unemployment rate was above 16% in April, “My guess right now is it’s going to be north of 16%, maybe as high as 20%,” he said.

“We’re looking at probably the worst unemployment rate since the Great Depression,” Hassett told CNN’s Poppy Harlow Tuesday.

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