The new study titled “Estimation of total mortality due to COVID-19” was published May 6, 2021. They have switched the way they estimate deaths due to COVID-19 and have arrived at a number of over 900,000 in the US. That’s a socking number because it is 57% higher than official figures.
They also considered the COVID-19 deaths worldwide. For that they estimate nearly 7 million. That also is way above the reported number of 3.24 million.
So the question to obviously wonder about is this – How exactly did the researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation derive such numbers and is what they have done credible?
What exactly did they do?
We do understand what the normal background rate of deaths actually is, so they started by looking at the number of excess deaths above that normal rate for the period March 2020 to May 2021.
They then adjusted those numbers to account for what was actually going on. For example, somebody suffering from Cancer might not have been able to gain access to their normal cancer treatment due to COVID-19, so they were not counting the indirect impact. Other factors in play, for example social distancing, meant that flu which normally has a mortality impact, did not circulate.
Once they had adjusted the numbers to eliminate these indirect impacts they are left with the rate of morality that is the direct result of COVID-19.
It is all rather complicated. My description above is a tad too simplistic. The paper explains in detail the six things they need to actually account for once they have the raw excess death rate …
Our approach to estimating the total COVID-19 death rate is based on measurement of the excess death rate during the pandemic week by week compared to what would have been expected based on past trends and seasonality. However, the excess death rate does not equal the total COVID-19 death rate. Excess mortality is influenced by six drivers of all-cause mortality that relate to the pandemic and the social distancing mandates that came with the pandemic. These six drivers are:
a) the total COVID-19 death rate, that is, all deaths directly related to COVID-19 infection;
b) the increase in mortality due to needed health care being delayed or deferred during the pandemic;
c) the increase in mortality due to increases in mental health disorders including depression, increased alcohol use, and increased opioid use;
d) the reduction in mortality due to decreases in injuries because of general reductions in mobility associated with social distancing mandates;
e) the reductions in mortality due to reduced transmission of other viruses, most notably influenza, respiratory syncytial virus, and measles; and
f) the reductions in mortality due to some chronic conditions, such as cardiovascular disease and chronic respiratory disease, that occur when frail individuals who would have died from these conditions died earlier from COVID-19 instead.
To correctly estimate the total COVID-19 mortality, we need to take into account all six of these drivers of change in mortality that have happened since the onset of the pandemic.
What Does this reveal?
Basically two things …
- The actual impact has been far greater than we originally thought it was
- Tracking using officially reported numbers is very very challenging. This is especially true of nations that under report for political reasons, for example India, Egypt, and several Central Asian nations.
Press Release Details
Below is an extract that gives you some nation specific numbers …
“As terrible as the COVID-19 pandemic appears, this analysis shows that the actual toll is significantly worse,” said Dr. Chris Murray, IHME’s director. “Understanding the true number of COVID-19 deaths not only helps us appreciate the magnitude of this global crisis, but also provides valuable information to policymakers developing response and recovery plans.”
The 20 countries with the highest number of total COVID-19 deaths, March 2020–May 2021
|Country||Total COVID-19 deaths||Reported COVID-19 deaths|
|United States of America||905,289||574,043|