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The United States has reached 200,000 coronavirus deaths. Now the experts are looking ahead and the forecast for autumn and winter is not good.

USE TODAY

The coronavirus pandemic may have caused tens of thousands more deaths in the spring and summer than previously thought, a new study says.

Researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond found that nearly 75,000 more people may have died as a result of the pandemic than was recorded from March to July, according to the report published Monday in the peer-reviewed journal JAMA.

By examining the death certificates, the study found that more than 150,000 deaths were officially attributed to COVID-19 during that time. But the researchers determined that nearly 75,000 additional deaths were indirectly caused by the pandemic, bringing the total number of deaths for those four months to more than 225,000.

Data from Johns Hopkins University puts the total death toll from COVID-19 in the United States at just under 215,000.

“There have been some conspiracy theories that the death toll from COVID-19 has been exaggerated,” said Dr. Steven Woolf, director emeritus of the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. “The opposite is true. We are actually experiencing more deaths than we thought we were. “

Woolf says the deaths indirectly caused by the pandemic have comefrom diseases such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes and heart disease, which have risen sharply in the same five states that have recorded the highest number of deaths from COVID-19.

Delayed care, fear of seeking treatment, or emotional crises resulting from the pandemic may have contributed to these deaths, he says, as well as inaccurate death certificates that may have misidentified a COVID-19 death.

Woolf saw a similar pattern in a previous study by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth and Yale universities that looked at excess deaths at the start of the pandemic, from March to April.

In that study, the researchers found that deaths from these other diseases increased in states like New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts, where coronavirus cases increased during the onset of the pandemic. In June and July, Woolf said similar deaths rose in the southern states which experienced a summer surge in coronavirus cases.

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Another noteworthy finding is the duration of the waves in various states. According to the study, the level of excess deaths in New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts was immense but short-lived, resulting in an “A-shaped” pattern.

In the Sunbelt states, however, excess deaths began to gradually increase at the start of the pandemic and then skyrocketed in June, until Woolf’s team finished their research in July.

“This suggests that it has some political implications in terms of the consequences of some states’ decision to loosen restrictions early in the pandemic,” he said. “It’s kind of a warning call for the future.”

Dr Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease physician and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said the study confirms what doctors see every day in the hospital and highlighted how badly federal officials behaved during the pandemic. .

The empty chairs are displayed to represent the 200,000 lives lost to COVID-19 at the National Covid-19 Remembrance, on the ellipse behind the White House in Washington, DC on October 4, 2020. (Photo: ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS, AFP via Getty Images)

Although the study may be just a snapshot from March to July, it says the country is still seeing an excess of deaths from the coronavirus.

“The fact is still in the fall with all the knowledge and the new tools … this is still killing people at too high a rate,” Adalja said.

The study contributes to research from the University of Washington that suggests nearly 400,000 people will die this year from COVID-19 or the aftermath of the pandemic. JAMA’s chief editor, Dr. Howard Bauchner, said in a magazine editorial published Monday that the excess death toll “cannot be overstated.”

“These deaths reflect a true measure of the human cost of the Great Pandemic of 2020,” he wrote.

Follow Adrianna Rodriguez on Twitter: @AdriannaUSAT.

Patient health and safety coverage in USA TODAY is made possible in part by a grant from the Masimo Foundation for Ethics, Innovation and Competition in Healthcare. The Masimo Foundation does not make editorial contributions.

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