The number of deaths in the United States up to and including July 2020 is 8 percent to 12 percent higher than it would have been if the coronavirus pandemic had never happened.
There are at least 164,937 deaths over the number expected during the first seven months of the year – 16,183 more than the number attributed to COVID-19 so far during that period – and it can be as high as 204,691.
When someone dies, the death certificate registers an immediate cause of death, along with up to three underlying conditions that “initiated the events that resulted in the death.” The certificate is filed with the local health department and the information is reported to the National Center for Health Statistics.
As part of the National Vital Statistics System, the NCHS then uses this information in various ways, such as tabulating the leading causes of death in the United States ̵
Sometime this fall, COVID-19 will probably be the third leading cause of death by 2020.
Projects from the past
To calculate excess deaths, a comparison is required with what would have occurred if COVID-19 had not existed. Obviously, it is not possible to observe what did not happen, but it is possible to estimate it with historical data.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does this using a statistical model, based on the three-year mortality data, which includes seasonal trends and adjustments for delays in data reporting.
So when we look at what has happened in the last three years, the CDC is projecting what may have been. By using a statistical model, they can also calculate the uncertainty in their estimates. This makes statistics that I can assess if the observed data look unusual compared to forecasts.
The number of excess deaths is the difference between the model forecasts and the actual observations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also calculates an upper threshold for the estimated number of deaths – which helps determine when the observed number of deaths is unusually high compared to historical trends.
In a graph with these data, the nailing in deaths that began in mid-March 2020 and continues to the present is clear. You may also see another period of overdose from December 2017 to January 2018, which can be attributed to an unusually virulent flu strain that year.
The size of the deadly deaths in 2020 makes it clear that COVID-19 is much worse than the flu, even compared to a bad flu year such as 2017-18, when an estimated 61,000 people in the US died of the disease.
The large number of deaths in April 2020 corresponds to the coronavirus outbreak in New York and the Northeast, after which the number of deaths decreased regularly and sharply until July, when it began to increase again.
This current discovery of dead deaths can be attributed to the eruptions in the south and west that have occurred since June.
The information tells the story
A sophisticated statistical model is not required to see that the coronavirus pandemic causes significantly more deaths than would otherwise have occurred.
The number of deaths that the CDC officially attributed to COVID-19 in the United States exceeded 148,754 before August 1.
Some people who are skeptical of aspects of coronavirus suggest that there are deaths that would have occurred anyway, perhaps because COVID-19 is particularly deadly to the elderly.
Others believe that because the pandemic has changed lives so drastically, the increase in COVID-19 deaths is likely to increase due to decreases from other causes. But none of these possibilities are true.
In fact, the number of deaths currently exceeds the number attributable to COVID-19 by more than 16,000 people in the United States. What is behind this difference is not yet clear. COVID-19 deaths can be underestimated, or the pandemic can also cause increases in other deaths. These are probably some of both.
Whatever the reason, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in significantly more deaths than would otherwise have occurred … and it’s not over yet.
Ronald D. Fricker Jr., Professor of Statistics and Associate Professor of Faculty Affairs and Administration, Virginia Tech.
This article is published by The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.