Coronavirus latest: At least two out of three excess deaths in US

Peter Wells in New York

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on mortality in the US could be underestimated by about one-third, according to new  research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and may understate effects on younger adults and Hispanic or Latino people.

The US had reported 216,025 deaths from coronavirus as of October 15, a group of researchers wrote in a summary report released by the CDC on October 20, but an estimated 299,028 excess deaths have occurred in the country from late January through October 3.

Excess deaths are typically defined as the number of individuals who have died from all causes, over and above the expected number of fatalities for a given location and time.

Whereas estimates of the number of fatalities directly attributable to coronavirus might be limited by factors such as the availability and use of diagnostic tests, an analysis of excess deaths is freer from such limitations because it examines the extent to which an observed number of deaths differs from historical trends.
The difference between the number of Covid-related fatalities and total excess deaths may represent a combination of more coronavirus-related deaths than officially counted or those that had been indirectly associated, such as by putting of treatment for another disease or suicide. 

To estimate the impact of the pandemic, the researchers examined weekly numbers of deaths by age group and race/ethnicity occurring in 2020 and the average number occurring in the same week during 2015 to 2019.The age group that had the largest average percentage change in deaths from January 26 to October 3 compared with previous years was for adults aged 25 to 44, at 26.5 per cent, while the number of deaths among persons aged less than 25 were 2 per cent below average.

For adults aged 45 to 64, 65 to 74, 75 to 84 and more than 85, deaths were 14.4 per cent, 24.1 per cent, 21.5 per cent and 14.7 per cent above average, respectively. Nominally, the group aged 75 to 84 had the most excess deaths this year, at 94,646.

By race and ethnicity, the group with the fewest excess deaths were among non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska native, at 3,412, although this was about 29 per cent higher than average. Excess deaths for black persons was 33 per cent higher than the historical norm and 36.6 per cent above average for Asian persons.

The largest average percentage increase in excess deaths was for Hispanic persons, which was nearly 54 per cent higher than average.

White people represented the largest number of excess deaths, of 171,491, which was 11.9 per cent higher than average.

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