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Actual Coronavirus Deaths Twice the Official Count, Study Finds

A new study from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) published on Thursday found that deaths from COVID-19 are almost double what have been reported.

Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images

In the United States, the “official” fatality count is around 594,000, by far the highest of any country. Using IHME’s new method, however, researches estimate that the real number of casualties is closer to 905,000.

“As terrible as the COVID-19 pandemic appears, this analysis shows that the actual toll is significantly worse,” Chris Murray, IHME’s director, said in a statement. “Understanding the true number of COVID-19 deaths not only helps us appreciate the magnitude of this global crisis, but also provides valuable information to policymakers developing response and recovery plans.”

IHME used six factors to calculate their results “based on measurement of the excess death rate during the pandemic week by week compared to what would have been expected based on past trends and seasonality. However, the excess death rate does not equal the total COVID-19 death rate. Excess mortality is influenced by six drivers of all-cause mortality that relate to the pandemic and the social distancing mandates that came with the pandemic.”

Those variables include:

a) the total COVID-19 death rate, that is, all deaths directly related to COVID-19 infection; b) the increase in mortality due to needed health care being delayed or deferred during the pandemic; c) the increase in mortality due to increases in mental health disorders including depression, increased alcohol use, and increased opioid use; d) the reduction in mortality due to decreases in injuries because of general reductions in mobility associated with social distancing mandates; e) the reductions in mortality due to reduced transmission of other viruses, most notably influenza, respiratory syncytial virus, and measles; and f) the reductions in mortality due to some chronic conditions, such as cardiovascular disease and chronic respiratory disease, that occur when frail individuals who would have died from these conditions died earlier from COVID-19 instead. To correctly estimate the total COVID-19 mortality, we need to take into account all six of these drivers of change in mortality that have happened since the onset of the pandemic.

Read the full study here.



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