The government and media need to stop lying about this and show the true horror of this monster plague.
Global coronavirus death toll could be 60% higher than reported
The death toll from coronavirus may be almost 60 per cent higher than reported in official counts, according to an FT analysis of overall fatalities during the pandemic in 14 countries.
Mortality statistics show 122,000 deaths in excess of normal levels across these locations, considerably higher than the 77,000 official Covid-19 deaths reported for the same places and time periods.
If the same level of under-reporting observed in these countries was happening worldwide, the global Covid-19 death toll would rise from the current official total of 201,000 to as high as 318,000.
To calculate excess deaths, the FT has compared deaths from all causes in the weeks of a location’s outbreak in March and April 2020 to the average for the same period between 2015 and 2019. The total of 122,000 amounts to a 50 per cent rise in overall mortality relative to the historical average for the locations studied.
In all the countries analysed except Denmark, excess deaths far outnumbered the official coronavirus death tolls. The accuracy of official death statistics from the virus is limited by how effectively a country is testing people to confirm cases. Some countries, including China, have retrospectively revised up their death tolls from the disease.
According to the FT analysis, overall deaths rose 60 per cent in Belgium, 51 per cent in Spain, 42 per cent in the Netherlands and 34 per cent in France during the pandemic compared with the same period in previous years.
Some of these deaths may be the result of causes other than Covid-19, as people avoid hospitals for other ailments. But excess mortality has risen most steeply in places suffering the worst Covid-19 outbreaks, suggesting most of these deaths are directly related to the virus rather than simply side-effects of lockdowns.
David Spiegelhalter, professor of the public understanding of risk at Cambridge University, said the daily counts in the UK, for instance, were “far too low” because they only accounted for hospital deaths.
“The only unbiased comparison you can make between different countries is by looking at all cause mortality . . . There are so many questions about the rise we’ve seen in death that have not got Covid on the death certificate, yet you feel are inevitably linked in some way to this epidemic.”
The extra deaths are most pronounced in urban areas with the worst virus outbreaks, and have completely overwhelmed reporting mechanisms in some. This is especially worrying for many emerging economies, where total excess mortality is orders of magnitude higher than official coronavirus fatalities.
In Ecuador’s Guayas province, just 245 official Covid-related deaths were reported between March 1 and April 15, but data on total deaths show that about 10,200 more people died during this period than in a typical year — an increase of 350 per cent.
In the northern Italian region of Lombardy, the heart of Europe’s worst outbreak, there are more than 13,000 excess deaths in the official statistics for the nearly 1,700 municipalities for which data is available. This is an uptick of 155 per cent on the historical average and far higher than the 4,348 reported Covid deaths in the region.
The region surrounding the Italian city of Bergamo registered the worst increase internationally with a 464 per cent rise in deaths above normal levels, followed by New York City with a 200 per cent increase, and Madrid, Spain, with a 161 per cent increase.
In the Indonesian capital Jakarta, data on burials shows an increase of 1,400 relative to the historical average during the same period — 15 times the official figure of 90 Covid deaths for the same period.
The challenge is not confined to the developing world. In England and Wales, the number of fatalities in the week ending April 10 was the highest this century. The figure was 76 per cent higher than the average for the same week in the past five years, and the number of excess deaths was 58 per cent higher than the total number of reported Covid-deaths for the same period.
“If we want to . . . [understand] the ways different countries have responded to the surging pandemic and how [it] has affected the health of the population, the best way is to count excess deaths,” said David Leon, professor of epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
Experts have warned of serious under-reporting of Covid-19 cases in residential facilities for the elderly, who are particularly vulnerable to the virus. “Very few countries appear to be testing people in care homes, staff and residents, systematically,” said Adelina Comas-Herrera, research fellow at the Care Policy and Evaluation Centre of the London School of Economics.
Even the much higher numbers of deaths in the pandemic suggested by excess mortality statistics are likely to be conservative, as lockdowns mean that “mortality from numerous conditions such as traffic accidents and occupational injuries possibly went down”, said Markéta Pechholdová, assistant professor of demography at the University of Economics, Prague.
SOURCE: Financial Times, John Burn-Murdoch, Valentina Romei and Chris Giles
How accurate is the US coronavirus death count? Some experts say it’s off by ‘tens of thousands’
The novel coronavirus has already claimed the lives of more than 60,000 Americans. But experts fear that number could be far higher at this point in the outbreak — perhaps by tens of thousands — once the pandemic subsides enough for officials to go back and make a true reckoning of the dead.
Experts are urging leaders to take measures right now to preserve data and medical specimens so that science has the chance to determine the precise number of people who succumbed during one of the most severe global pandemics in memory.
“Under-counting deaths in this particular epidemic is happening all over,” said Dr. Daniel Lopez-Acuna, an epidemiologist and former top World Health Organization (WHO) official, who spent 30 years at the organization. “It’s almost inevitable.”
Calculating the precise number of COVID-19 deaths is remarkably complicated for a number of reasons. But leading epidemiologists, pathologists, medical examiners, medical history professors and local, state, federal and global health officials told ABC News that more testing is the single most important factor in determining an accurate national death count.
“We need to have the testing available because the big question now with COVID-19 is the denominator — of anything,” said Dr. Alex Williamson of the College of American Pathologists. “How many people get it? How many people recover? How many are hospitalized? How many died? We don’t know the true denominator. More testing is the most important thing we need to do.”
Ongoing testing kit shortages in cities and states nationwide means that only clearly symptomatic patients are currently being tested in many places. There also is no uniform national system in the U.S. for investigating deaths, and until two weeks ago, the U.S. was only counting Americans who lab-tested positive, before or after death, for COVID-19.
Left out of the tally are people who died without being tested and those who died at home or some other non-healthcare facilities before they could seek medical care.
“It is an extraordinary challenge,” said Dr. Sally Aiken, president of the National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME). “There just isn’t really the infrastructure.”
Further undermining an accurate national count are new analyses that suggest the virus was spreading in the U.S. much earlier than previously believed, likely playing a role in more deaths than currently known.
California’s first known COVID-19 death to date was Patricia Cabello Dowd, 57, in Santa Clara County. Dowd died on Feb. 6 of heart complications, which were later determined to have been unleashed by the COVID-19 virus. Dowd’s death — in which an autopsy obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle listed a heart rupture “due to Covid-19 infection” — came three weeks before the earliest previously identified American coronavirus-related death.
New data on cardiac arrest emergency calls reviewed by ABC News suggests that New York City’s catastrophic outbreak likely began in close-knit neighborhoods in Queens and Brooklyn as far back as mid-February.
Finally, as the cardiac arrest data suggested, scientists are contending with an ever-evolving understanding of how COVID-19 attacks the body. Initially, it was believed to primarily attack the lungs, but new research suggests it’s a danger to nearly every organ.
Experts say that many people like Dowd, who died of a non-respiratory COVID-19 complication early in the outbreak — before the pandemic’s impact became apparent — may never be accurately counted.
The confusion and complications inherent in tracking pandemics have left a weary nation wondering just how high the actual U.S. death count may be – and how bad things really are.
Less than 2% of all Americans have been tested for the coronavirus to date, according to White House figures – nearly 5.5 million people. It’s a figure that experts say is both higher than most nations and far lower per capita than where the U.S. should be at this point.
U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health and White House “testing czar” Admiral Brett Giroir told George Stephanopoulos on “Good Morning America” on Tuesday that the Trump administration doesn’t concur with a Harvard University study which concluded last week that the U.S. needs to be testing 5 million people a day in June and up to 20 million by July in order to safely re-open the country.
“We don’t believe those estimates are accurate, nor are they reasonable, “ Giroir said.
Yet either way, that testing is still mostly focused on the living. Experts told ABC News that an accurate death toll is not only important to later get a better picture of what happened, but if possible, real-time or near real-time death counts can also help public health officials in their battle to contain the virus now.
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SOURCE: ABC News, Dr. Mark Abdelmalek, Chris Francescani and Kaitlyn Folmer
Spike in US deaths and cases flagged as pneumonia suggests even greater COVID-19 impact
Federal data released this week shows that the number of deaths recorded in the U.S. this year is higher than normal, outpacing deaths attributed to COVID-19 in states that have been hit hardest by the virus.
The data provides the first look at death trends this year across the country and offers more evidence that the official tally of coronavirus deaths is low.
The phenomenon is pronounced in states with some of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks. From March 22 to April 11, New York saw 14,403 more deaths than the average of the previous six years, according to data maintained by the National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. New Jersey saw an additional 4,439 deaths and Michigan an additional 1,572.
The “excess deaths” surpassed COVID-19 fatalities in those states by a combined 4,563 people. Experts suspect that unconfirmed coronavirus cases could be responsible for some of those deaths, but it might also be related to a shift in other causes of death. For example, some doctors speculate people might be dying from illnesses from which they would normally recover because the pandemic has changed access to health care.
“When we begin to look at it retrospectively, it’s going to help discern, or maybe develop a more accurate estimate of what the true number of deaths might have been from COVID-19,” said Dr. Matthew Boulton, a professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health who also serves as Editor-in-Chief for the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
It’s more difficult to gauge how much of a factor the missing COVID-19 deaths could be when looking at the entire country.
Over those same three weeks, at least 171,587 people died nationwide – 16,785 deaths more than the historical average. But that number is lower than the 23,460 COVID-19 deaths reported during the same time period, in part because 28 states have so far reported fewer deaths than average. That might mean fewer people have died there than is typical, or it might just mean the states haven’t finished reporting deaths to the CDC, a process that can take up to two months. (Two states – North Carolina and Connecticut – reported zero deaths for some weeks and were excluded from USA TODAY’s calculations.)
Death numbers for March and April are expected to increase because most states are still compiling figures. It will take months or years more before researchers know with certainty how many people actually died from COVID-19. Scientists say that delay is common for any infectious disease and more so for new pathogens like the novel coronavirus.
It’s not surprising that America would record more deaths when there is a new way to die, experts said. The big question is whether public officials are accurately counting all the deaths caused by COVID-19 so they can make smarter decisions about how to save lives in the future. The death certificate data tracked by the NCHS and released state by state for the first time last week provides early clues about the pandemic’s impact.
In addition to uncounted COVID-19 deaths, doctors worry that some people are dying unnecessarily from heart attacks and other conditions because hospitals canceled services or people are afraid to seek care.
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SOURCE: USA Today, Jayme Fraser, Daveen Rae Kurutz, Jessica Priest and Kevin Crowe
U.S. coronavirus death toll is far higher than reported, CDC data suggests
Total deaths in seven states that have been hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic are nearly 50% higher than normal for the five weeks from March 8 through April 11, according to new death statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is 9,000 more deaths than were reported as of April 11 in official counts of deaths from the coronavirus.
The new data is partial and most likely undercounts the recent death toll significantly. But it still illustrates how the coronavirus is causing a surge in deaths in the places it has struck, probably killing more people than the reported statistics capture. These increases belie arguments that the virus is only killing people who would have died anyway from other causes. Instead, the virus has brought a pattern of deaths unlike anything seen in recent years.
If you look at the provisional deaths from all causes, death counts in New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Massachusetts, Illinois, Maryland and Colorado have spiked far above their normal levels for the period. In New York City, the home of the biggest outbreak, the number of deaths over this period is more than three times the normal number. (Recent data suggests it could have reached six times higher than normal.)
In New Jersey, deaths have been 172% of the normal number so far — more than 5,000 additional deaths, compared with an average count from the past five years. In Michigan, the partial death count is 121% of the count in a normal year, the equivalent of nearly 2,000 more deaths.
These numbers are preliminary because death certificates take time to be processed and collected, and complete death tallies from the CDC can take up to eight weeks to become final. The speed of that data reporting varies considerably by state. In Connecticut, for example, where reported coronavirus deaths are high, the CDC statistics include zero reported deaths from any cause since Feb. 1 because of reporting lags.
We compared these provisional death counts with the average number of deaths each week over the past five years. Public health researchers use the term “excess deaths” to describe a gap between recent trends and a typical level of deaths.
It’s difficult to know whether the differences between excess deaths and the official counts of coronavirus deaths reflect an undercounting of coronavirus deaths or a surge in deaths from other causes. It’s likely a mix of both.
There is evidence, in New York and other places, that the official coronavirus counts are probably too low. Tests for the illness can be hard to get, and not all who die now are being tested, particularly if they die outside a hospital. New York City recently revised its own statistics for the number of coronavirus-related fatalities, saying thousands of additional deaths were probably because of COVID-19, even though no tests had been conducted.
There is also increasing evidence that stresses on the health care system and fears about catching the disease have caused some Americans to die from ailments that are typically treatable. A recent draft paper found that hospital admissions for a major type of heart attack fell by 38% in nine major U.S. hospitals in March. In a normal year, cardiovascular disease is the country’s leading cause of death.
Some causes of death may actually be going down. There appear to be fewer road fatalities in California as more U.S. residents stay at home, for example. It is possible that those reductions could cancel out coronavirus deaths in places where the virus is not yet widespread. But in many states, any such reductions have been clearly outweighed by increases in deaths directly and indirectly related to the virus.
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SOURCE: The Seattle Times, Margot Sanger-Katz, Josh Katz, and Denise Lu