Tens of thousands of additional deaths occurred in the United States between March and July 2020 in addition to the death toll from COVID-19, according to a paper released this week.
The Virginia Commonwealth University study, released Monday, found that COVID was listed as the cause of only 67 percent of the excess deaths from March to August 1 this year.
The study also found that there were a total of 225,530 deaths as of August 1, beyond what would have been predicted for 2020 based on previous years’ death rates and population trends. This leaves around 75,000 deaths unexplained so far.
The official death toll from COVID-19 in the United States jumped to 200,000 on September 22.
Dr Steven Woolf, the study̵
Although the study found that COVID-19 accounted for two-thirds of the excess deaths nationwide during the first five months of the pandemic, the state-wide discrepancy is much steeper.
In Arizona, for example, which had seen an estimated 7,471 more deaths as of August 1 than in a non-pandemic year, only 53 percent of those deaths had been attributed to COVID-19. Similarly, only 56 percent of Texas’s 17,772 excess deaths were attributed to COVID-19, the study found.
Woolf said the gap could be due to a wide range of reasons and noted that for a period of time following the deadliest weeks of the New York City spring epidemic “there has been a filling process in which there is is what appears to be a large gap between COVID deaths and excess deaths. “
He added that looking back to the same time period in New York City, local authorities have updated the counts so that 80-90 percent of excess deaths in the five boroughs are now attributable to COVID-19.
Woolf added that the discrepancy raises other issues, including limited public health resources and deaths due to disruptions caused by the pandemic. The Houston Chronicle reported in August that the true toll from the pandemic was higher than what the state had reported on its death certificates; Woolf did not ignore this possibility either.
The research also reflects different approaches to managing the virus.
New York City, which faced a major epidemic in late March but then implemented longer-term killing policies, “reverted to baseline in May” for excessive deaths.
But states that reopened earlier “experienced more sustained increases in excess deaths that lasted through the summer,” the study found.
Woolf added that the study also identified national increases in deaths due to heart disease, Alzheimer’s and dementia; it is not clear whether these are due to the virus or other causes related to the interruption of the pandemic.