On average in 2018 in Michigan, 271 people died.
About 69 died from heart disease. Another 58 of cancer. Third on the list was chronic lower respiratory disease, with around 16 deaths a day.
Fast forward to 2020, and coronavirus is poised to be the leading cause of death in April, with an average of nearly 100 deaths per day, using the most conservative state figures.
And most of the other leading causes of death are not experiencing a decline. With the further increase in deaths from COVID-19, April 2020 was the deadliest month in Michigan since 2000, with 11,713 and more.
This does not surprise hospital workers like the emergency room at the Detroit Medical Center, Dr. Robert Klever.
“It was not easy at times. The number of coronavirus deaths we see is quite remarkable, ”said Klever. “Right now, we see more deaths in a week than we (normally) in a whole month. And a few times, we see more deaths in a day than we see in a month. “
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Michigan’s deadliest month was January 2018. Deaths from cancer, stroke and heart disease were slightly higher than normal, while deaths from pneumonia and flu and deaths from at COPD were at or near record levels that month.
A total of 9,477 people died in January 2018 in Michigan – well above the 20-year average of around 7,500 deaths per month and a few hundred more than the previous record.
But deaths during the pandemic shattered old records.
The deadliest four weeks in Michigan this century match the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in Michigan: the weeks ending April 4, April 11, April 18, and April 25. And the numbers keep flowing, according to the Michigan Department of Health and social service officials.
The common thread is clear, experts say: it’s because of the coronavirus.
“There are more people dying, absolutely,” said Dr. Teena Chopra, professor of infectious diseases at Wayne State University and medical director of hospital epidemiology at DMC. “If you compare our data to the previous months, to the previous years, we have a higher number of deaths. And this is due to COVID – clearly. And it’s not just our hospital. All hospitals across the country report higher deaths from COVID. “
Of the 11,713 deaths in Michigan in April, 2,747 are attributed to the coronavirus, according to state data from death certificates – making it the leading cause of death.
Data released by Michigan for coronavirus deaths – which currently stands at 4,915 – show slightly higher figures for two reasons: they include deaths for which COVID-19 was a leading or associated cause of death, and these data are available more quickly since they are based on hospital reports. instead of death certificates, said Jeff Duncan, director of the MDHHS of the Vital Statistics and Health Statistics Division.
The coronavirus has been the leading cause of death for more than 3,800 people in Michigan since the pandemic began in March.
Death adds to the myths of the coronavirus
The high number of deaths due to COVID-19 has led some to question the figures on social networks. There have been complaints that hospitals are paid more when a death qualifies as a COVID-19 death; and that the deaths are comparable to those in a typical year – people just die for a different reason.
Doctors and experts refute these two allegations.
“You don’t get paid when someone dies. You get paid to take care of someone, “said Ruthanne Sudderth, senior vice president of public affairs at the Michigan Health and Hospital Association. “What hospitals receive as payment from the federal government, funding from the CARES law, funding from the state – that is, for COVID patient care. It is not related to the number of deaths. “
Although some funding is linked to the number of COVID-19 patients in a hospital, this is in black and white, depending on whether the sample taken from a person is positive or negative.
Chopra said the coronavirus can also reveal underlying conditions, such as heart disease, pneumonia, or arrhythmias, making it a gray area for doctors when determining the primary cause of death and associated cause.
The second claim that the elderly – who are most affected by the coronavirus – are now dead from other causes is also incorrect, experts say.
Vital statistics separate deaths by week, showing an increase in the total number of deaths from all causes. The peak begins when the pandemic hit Michigan in late March. Some weeks saw 150% to 160% of expected deaths, compared to the same weeks in 2019.
A New York Times chart shows that Michigan is experiencing one of the largest increases in deaths – from what was expected – in the country.
The nature of the pandemic can also lead to changes in patterns of death, experts say. For example, deaths from car crashes may decrease as fewer people drive, but some other categories of deaths may increase as people ignore health warning signs in the hopes of avoiding the hospital, said Sudderth.
Heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, chronic lower respiratory disease, diabetes and influenza all experienced double-digit percentage increases in deaths during the last week of March and first two weeks of April – compared to the same weeks in 2019.
As the number of COVID-19 slows, hospitals are returning to most of their normal functions – excluding procedures such as cosmetic surgery, said Sudderth.
But it is important that people understand the true number of deaths COVID-19 has caused so far, said Chopra, as the state seeks to relax its precautions.
“The more mortalities we see gives us an indication and a lesson,” said Chopra. “We need to be prepared for what will happen with the second and third outbreaks of this disease. “
COVID-19 PREVENTION TIPS
In addition to washing your hands regularly and not touching your face, authorities recommend practicing social distancing, assuming that anyone can carry the virus.
Health officials say you should stay at least 6 feet from others and work from home, if possible.
Use disinfectant wipes or disinfectant spray cleaners on frequently touched surfaces in your home (doorknobs, faucets, counters) and take hand sanitizer with you when you go to places like stores.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has also issued an order directing people to wear face covers over their mouths and noses when in closed public spaces.
Read all of MLive’s coronavirus coverage at mlive.com/coronavirus.
Additional information is available at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus.
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