excess mortality
May 30, 2020

The U.S. was bracing for the number of COVID-19 fatalities to surpass 100,000 for quite some time before it officially crossed the threshold earlier this week, though a new analysis shows that the death toll likely reached the mark weeks earlier, The Washington Post reports.

The analysis, conducted for the Post by a research team at the Yale School of Public Health, estimates that there were 101,600 excess deaths between March 1 and May 9, which is about 26,000 more than were officially attributed to the coronavirus during that period. That doesn't mean that all 26,000 deaths were caused by the virus, but it's likely many of them were related to the epidemic in some capacity. For example, people with unrelated illnesses may have refrained from seeking necessary medical attention because of concerns about the virus' presence in the health care system.

Most of the surges in deaths occurred in states that experienced noticeably worse outbreaks, like New York and New Jersey, while several states like Alaska and Utah either had fewer deaths than would be expected or did not have an unusual excess mortality during the timeframe.

But the analysis did find that, among those states with lower excess deaths, there may be an undercounting when it comes to what percentage of those fatalities are related to COVID-19. Nationally, the coronavirus accounted for 74 percent of excess fatalities, but in South Carolina, Arizona, and Texas — all states that rank toward the bottom in testing prevalence — that number was 30, 40, and 39 percent, respectively. One of the research team members, Farzad Mostashari, told the Post the testing gap could be a contributing factor in the discrepancy. Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

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