Well this doesn’t give you a warm, fuzzy feeling.
It’s possible that more Americans than we were told, not fewer, died from COVID-19 in the dark days between March and May, and not by a little bit. A study published Wednesday found that discrepancies in state reporting likely undercounted the fatality rate.
The official COVID-19 death toll during the period was 95,235, while the National Center for Health Statistics reported that America suffered 122,300 more deaths during that time than the historical average. If we attribute all the extra deaths to the disease, then it would mean we under-counted by 28%.
If not, we have to figure out what caused the extra deaths, and that’s not easy. It’s possible that many COVID-19 deaths were listed simply as due to pneumonia because so many occurred in nursing homes where pneumonia is a common cause of death.
Daniel Weinberger, the study’s lead author from the Yale School of Public Health, said:
“Determining the cause of death on a death certificate is not an exact science. It is possible that someone who had COVID-19 and that triggered pneumonia might have pneumonia listed as the cause of death. Whereas another jurisdiction might have COVID as the cause. The coding for what a person died from can vary a lot from person to person and jurisdiction to jurisdiction.”
Much of it might have to do with the availability of testing for the new disease. Without widespread testing available, there was no way to pinpoint COVID-19 as the cause.
Other studies have found that coronavirus fears kept people with symptoms of heart attack or stroke away from emergency rooms, possibly contributing to increased deaths, and then there are ancillary causes such as suicide and drug overdose triggered by depression following unemployment.
“You can certainly see that things like heart attacks and strokes and people dying with primary cause as Alzheimer’s Disease have gone up. But when you look at the magnitude it is still smaller than coronavirus deaths.”