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Higher-Than-Normal Death Rate In The US Since March

Some people insist on viewing the coronavirus pandemic through a subjective political lens and downplay the seriousness of the disease and assert that the COVID-19 mortality rate is overblown. Then there are those of us who view the pandemic through an objective scientific lens and come to a diametrically different conclusion. Earlier in these pages, I reported on two studies, one done in the UK and the other in the US, that used actuarial and hospital data to show a 35% increase in all deaths compared to a comparable period of time before the pandemic. Both papers concluded that the COVID-19 deaths were, in fact, being undercounted.

Continuing to look through the science lens, we see recent confirmation of those studies in a paper published Oct 12, in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). While total US deaths usually are remarkably consistent from year to year, this study reported a 20% increase in total deaths between March 1 and August 1 this year compared to historical data. States with the highest rate of excess deaths included NY, RI, NJ, MA, LA, AZ, MS, MD DE and MI. Excess deaths in these states ranged from 22% in RI and MI, to 65% in NY. States that reopened earlier saw greater increases in total extra deaths.

67% of the excess deaths across the country were associated with COVID-19. The 33% of deaths unrelated to COVID-19 were statistically elevated for patients with heart disease and Alzheimer disease. Deaths not linked to COVID-19 were probably due either to unrecognized COVID-19 disease, or to disruption of normal health and personal care due to pandemic-related shutdowns.

The current JAMA study analyzed death data for 2014-2020 from the National Center for Health Statistics to conclude that the excess US death rate is 20%, while the previous studies used actuarial and hospital data to conclude that the excess death rate was 35%. The different conclusions regarding death rates could reflect using different sources of data, or different science filters.

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