Q&A – Are COVID-19 Deaths Being Over Reported?


Covid and declining graph over red background

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Today’s entry: Don't Think It Would Hurt When Reporting COVID Deaths, You Could Mention That The COVID Deaths Reported Are Misleading At Best, I Just Think When You Talk About COVID Deaths This Should Be Mentioned, Remember What You Always Say About Facts.

Bottom Line: You are right about my saying and you’ve introduced a topic I’ve not addressed in over a year. COVID death reporting. During the first year of the pandemic, I periodically weighed COVID death reporting against a metric that acts as a way to empirically determine what’s real regarding deaths from all causes. The CDC’s Excess Deaths metric. In case you’ve not heard me speak to it previously, and/or aren’t familiar with it, the metric averages five years of deaths calculated weekly and adjusted by population changes. This is helpful because it accounts for all variables. Whether everyone had been tested for the virus or if no one had. It also doesn’t matter how deaths were categorized. Simply, how many people died and how many normally would have.

Prior to the impact of the pandemic the US hadn’t experienced even a week of excess deaths since February of 2018 during the impact of that unusually bad flu season. I haven’t done any sort of analysis on this data since last April, so going in I’m not sure where the data will lead me on this one to the point of your question.

In the last analysis, I did a year ago, COVID deaths had actually been under-reported by 19%. That’s the reason I’ve not felt the need to offer a disclaimer regarding COVID death reporting as I have with COVID hospitalizations for example. Is that still the case? The most recent week the US didn’t have “excess deaths” was the week ended March 21st, 2020. The peak number of excess deaths during the pandemic, and in the history of this metric, occurred during the first three weeks of January last year when an average of 44% more Americans were dying compared to usual.

This data is consistent with the trends in COVID death reporting we’ve seen and it’s an indication that up to now, even during the lulls in between waves, we’ve still had above typical deaths occurring. Since the onset of the pandemic, the range of excess deaths has been as low as 2% more than usual, to 45% more deaths than usual.

Now to dig in deeper to compare COVID reported/attributed deaths to the actuals. The total number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 in the US as of January 8th was 861,418. Excess deaths since the pandemic began stand at 968,036 as of the week ending January 8th.

Each day I feature a listener question sent by one of these methods. 

Email:brianmudd@iheartmedia.com

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