“Notable increases” in deaths were seen in March and early April, the team led by the Yale School of Public Health said. This was particularly true in New York and New Jersey, states hard hit by the pandemic.
The study was first reported by the Washington Post.
Using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the team found approximately 15,000 excess deaths from March 1 to April 4. During the same period, states reported 8,000 deaths from Covid-19. “It’s almost double that,” Dan Weinberger, who studies the epidemiology of infectious diseases at Yale, told CNN.
The team could not show whether the increase in deaths was due to the coronavirus, said Weinberger. But there are strong indications that they were. For example, the team also reviewed data on doctor’s visits.
In addition, in particularly hard-hit states such as New York and New Jersey, where the coronavirus is known to spread widely and infect many people, the number of deaths was far greater than what would normally have happened. in March.
“In New York, the gap was even more glaring, with three to four times more deaths from excess causes than deaths from pneumonia and influenza,” the team wrote.
Some states, such as New York, appeared to be following the deaths of Covid-19. The pandemic death report closely followed what the Yale team found. But others do not.
“For example, California has reported 101 deaths from COVID-19 and 399 deaths from excess pneumonia and flu,” the team wrote in a prepublication published online in MedRxiv (pronounced Med Archive).
The new coronavirus causes respiratory illnesses, and deaths are likely to be included in regular reports of pneumonia and flu deaths and illnesses. But doctors are increasingly reporting other, sometimes fatal, symptoms of Covid-19, including stroke, kidney failure, and heart damage.
Patients already weakened by preexisting conditions such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease may have had a death that is listed as one of these causes, rather than the coronavirus.
In addition, it is possible that coronavirus blockages have led to a below-average mortality rate. For example, if fewer people drove, road deaths could drop, Weinberger said.
Weinberger’s team therefore looked at both pneumonia and flu deaths and deaths from all causes.
“We decided to look at all the deaths from pneumonia, or all the deaths in general, and see how these numbers changed,” said Weinberger.
The CDC tracks pneumonia and flu deaths by week, and compares them to a death baseline to keep tabs on the annual seasonal flu epidemic. In addition, the National Center for Health Statistics, which is part of the CDC, maintains data on all reported deaths.
The Yale-led team subtracted the expected number of deaths for each week from the total number of deaths that were actually reported, and counted the supplement as deaths from Covid.
“Many states have experienced a noticeable increase in the proportion of total P&I (pneumonia and flu) deaths from mid-March to March 28 compared to what would be expected depending on the period of year and flu activity, ”the team wrote in their report.
Weinberger’s team found evidence that people were dying while states were struggling to find out if the virus had even arrived in their regions. “In some states, such as Florida and Georgia, the increase in deaths from pneumonia and the flu preceded the widespread adoption of tests for the new coronavirus by several weeks,” they wrote.
The researchers said their work shows that it may be more accurate to estimate Covid’s deaths, rather than trying to count each positive test.
“Given the lack of adequate testing and the geographic variability of testing intensity, this type of surveillance provides key information about the severity of the epidemic in different geographic regions,” they wrote.
“It also provides some indication of the degree to which viral tests lack of deaths associated with COVID-19 directly or indirectly. “
Some public health experts have said that Covid-19 almost certainly spreads to the United States in January and possibly as early as December, long before the United States reports the first official death. Some state and local health officials are returning to see if the people who died in January and February were actually infected with a coronavirus.
California officials said last week that a 57-year-old woman who died on February 6 had been infected with Covid-19 and that it was in fact the first death recorded in the United States because of the virus. Prior to the announcement, the first coronavirus death in the United States was believed to be that of a man in Washington on February 29.