New Study Estimates More Than 900,000 People Have Died Of COVID-19 In U.S.

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.

Its Complicated

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 …

  1. The actual impact has been far greater than we originally thought it was
  2. 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

You can find their full press release here.

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 
India 654,395 221,181 
Mexico 617,127 217,694 
Brazil 595,903 408,680 
Russian Federation 593,610 109,334 
United Kingdom 209,661 150,519 
Italy 175,832 121,257 
Iran174,177 72,906 
Egypt 170,041 13,529 
South Africa 160,452 54,390 
Poland 149,855 68,237 
Peru 147,765 62,739 
Ukraine 138,507 46,737 
France 132,680 105,506 
Spain 123,786 85,365 
Germany 120,729 83,256 
Indonesia 115,743 45,938 
Japan 108,320 10,390 
Romania 87,649 28,382 
Kazakhstan 81,696 5,620 

These IHME Death Details are also on YouTube

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