The US experienced 15,400 'excess deaths' from March to April 4 compared with last year, suggesting coronavirus death toll is higher than known
- The US saw 15,400 "excess deaths" from March to April 4, compared to the year before, according to an analysis conducted for The
- During the same time period, the official death count from
- The discrepancy exists in data from around the world, and suggests the true number of coronavirus-related deaths is being significantly undercounted.
- New Orleans Health Director Jennifer Avegno believes the actual death toll may be 15% higher than what is officially reported.
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At least 54,000 people in the US have died as a direct result of the
In an analysis conducted for The Washington Post, a research team led by the Yale School of Public Health found that the US experienced 15,400 "excess deaths" from March through April 4 compared to the year before.
"Excess deaths" is the number of extra deaths in a given period compared to a historical average, from any cause.
This, the Post noted, came at a time when traffic fatalities were in steep decline due to stay-at-home orders.
Over the same period, there were also 8,128 confirmed deaths from COVID-19.
As The Post reported, this does not mean all 15,000-plus deaths are directly attributable to the virus — an assertion that would be impossible to verify in the absence of a more robust testing regime.
The number, reliant on figures released April 24 by the National Center for Health Statistics, is instead an estimate based on "how many people probably would have died absent the pandemic," subtracted from the number of people who actually did.
The Post's analysis of the US came shortly after the Financial Times conducted a similar exercise with figures from health authorities all over the world. They reached a similar conclusion — that deaths linked to the pandemic have been significantly under-counted in nations from Italy to Ecuador.
In some US states, by the excess deaths measure, total deaths are actually lower than before. In Louisiana, for example, 408 people died of COVID-19 by April 4, making it one of the worst-hit areas of the country. Still, it had "slightly fewer deaths overall than normal," The Post reported.
But that could be due to a lag in reporting numbers. New Orleans Health Director Jennifer Avegno, citing a spike in paramedics reporting deaths and cardiac arrest — up 24% from the year before — said the COVID-19 death toll is likely 15% higher than officially acknowledged, according to emails obtained by Columbia University's Brown Institute for Media Innovation.
She told The Post that undercounting deaths could lead officials to enact bad public policy. "They may think the number of cases is more limited," Avegno said, "but they are not testing widely enough to know."
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