Coronavirus death toll in the United States may be underestimated by up to 36% – study of ‘excess deaths’ finds there may be an additional 75,000 unconfirmed COVID-19 deaths
- The researchers looked at the number of “excess” deaths between February and September compared to previous years
- An analysis of more than 1,000 counties revealed at least 183,000 deaths with COVID-19 assigned as the direct cause of death
- In addition, for every 100 deaths directly attributed to the virus, there were another 36 deaths
- This means that the death toll of 209,000 could actually be underestimated by up to 36% and around 284,000
The death toll in the United States from the novel coronavirus is likely much higher than official figures suggest, a new study says.
More than 209,000 people have died from COVID-19, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
But the researchers say the number of “excess deaths” is many times higher than what would be expected in a normal year.
For every 100 deaths directly attributed to COVID-19, there have been another 36 excess deaths, meaning the count should be about 36 percent higher, the team, led by the University of Pennsylvania, found.
This means that the actual death toll could actually be around 284,000.
A new study, conducted by the University of Pennsylvania, found that for every 100 deaths directly attributed to COVID-19, there were another 36 deaths
This means that the death toll of 209,000 could actually be underestimated by up to 36% and stand at around 284,000. Pictured: Bodies are moved to a refrigerated truck serving as a temporary morgue at Wyckoff Hospital in Brooklyn, New York, April 6.
Excess deaths are defined as the number of people who would have died anyway, the typical mortality rate of a population.
Lead author, Dr Andrew Stokes, assistant professor of global health at Boston University, says, “Excess deaths may provide a more robust measure of the pandemic’s effects on total mortality than direct COVID death counts.
“The excess deaths include COVID deaths attributed to other causes, as well as the indirect consequences of the pandemic on society.”
Researchers say this can be attributed to people with pre-existing conditions or those who have waited to seek lifesaving medical care.
For the new study, published on the pre-press site medRxiv.org, the team looked at county-level mortality data from the National Center for Health Statistics.
Each of the 1,021 counties analyzed had 10 or more deaths from COVID-19 between February 1 and September 23.
The results were then compared with data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2013 to 2018 to estimate the number of deaths each county would have seen without the pandemic.
In the past eight months, counties have suffered nearly 250,000 excess deaths, 9.5 percent due to excess deaths directly assigned to COVID-19 and a further 5.3 percent of those not directly assigned to the virus.
The researchers found that 26% of death certificates did not directly assign COVID as a cause of death, but about 183,000 others did.
Furthermore, for every 100 deaths directly attributed to the virus, there were 36 additional deaths, suggesting the official death toll. it should be 36 percent inflated.
“Counties with high levels of COVID-19 mortality also had exceptionally high levels of mortality in 2020 from other causes of death,” said senior author Dr Samuel Preston, a professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania.
“This finding suggests that the outbreak is responsible for far more deaths than those attributed to COVID-19 alone.”
Additionally, excess deaths were prevalent in counties with more black residents, high income in equality, and fewer homeowners.
“Our findings focus important attention on the disparate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on low-income and minority communities,” said Dr Irma Elo.
“These groups have historically experienced high mortality rates, which are now further exacerbated by the current pandemic.”