Deaths from Covid-19 have steadily increased across the country, the average number of deaths per day increasing in the last three consecutive days to more than 600 on July 9, based on an average of seven days of death reported daily, caused by outbreaks in several hot spots. Epidemiologists say it is worrying that deaths are starting to accelerate again, even if it is only a few days of data.
US officials and the general public should have witnessed the increase in deaths, Larry Levitt, executive vice president for health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told CNBC. Deaths tend to lag behind new cases, as it can take weeks before a patient becomes ill enough to be hospitalized and eventually die.
” It was predictable. We seem to have had trouble watching this country a few weeks in advance, ”said Levitt. “But we know the pattern that more people are infected, more people are hospitalized and ultimately more people die. “
According to data from Hopkins, Florida, Texas, California and Arizona have all seen daily death toll peaks in the past three days.
California reported an average of around 85 new coronavirus-related deaths per day in the past seven days as of Thursday, up more than 29% from a week ago, according to CNBC analysis of the data. compiled by Hopkins. The state’s Covid-19 death toll is now 6,859 dead, according to Hopkins.
Florida has registered an average of 56 deaths a day in the past seven days, up more than 35% from last week, according to CNBC analysis. Hopkins data shows that more than 4,000 people have died from the disease in the state so far.
Texas reported an average of around 66 new deaths a day in the past seven days on Thursday, up more than 106% from last week, according to CNBC analysis. To date, more than 3,000 people have died from Covid-19 in the state, according to Hopkins.
Admittedly, the data on deaths are imperfect, according to epidemiologists. If a Covid-19 patient has an underlying disease, such as heart disease, and the virus worsens and the patient dies, the doctor may classify the cause as either. Elderly patients who die in nursing homes often have coronavirus but are not often tested, they said.
“Record keeping can be everywhere,” said Dr. Bruce Y. Lee, professor of health policy and management at the City University of New York.
The country, however, is much better equipped today to handle an influx of Covid-19 patients than it was at the start of the epidemic, epidemiologists said. This should help avoid the same type of death surge that plagued hospitals and funeral homes in northeastern and Washington State in March and April. However, three epidemiologists in Florida and Texas have all said they expect deaths to continue to rise for at least a few weeks.
“Our cases started to increase around the beginning of June and now that I look at it, you can see that the deaths have also started to increase slightly,” said Cindy Prins, epidemiologist at the University of Florida. . “At the start, a lot of people said, well, it’s flat, it’s flat. And the concern was, well, we haven’t caught up with the data, and now we’re starting to see that increase, which is certainly a concern. ”
State officials in Florida and other states have noted that the recent increase in the number of cases is largely due to younger patients, which is important because younger people are less likely to get seriously ill and die from Covid-19. However, the data from Covid-19 shows that these infections are increasingly spreading to the elderly and more vulnerable, which could lead to an increase in deaths, said Prins.
“There are more tests today than there were then, which may explain part of that, but I think we are seeing a real increase in cases among the elderly, which makes sense being given the significant overall increase in cases, “she added. .
The transition from young to old is starting to show up in the data, said Dr. Mary Jo Trepka, epidemiologist at Florida International University. Last month, the state reported that the daily median age of newly diagnosed Covid-19 patients had reached a record high of 33 years. However, by Thursday, the median age of newly infected people had risen to 40, according to the state health department.
With this median age on the rise, Prins and Trepka said they expect deaths to continue to increase in the coming weeks. However, Trepka noted that deaths are unlikely to increase at the same rapid rate as New York City, which was particularly affected at the start of the American pandemic. Public health officials have since put in place measures to protect vulnerable populations, and hospitals have since improved patient care.
“It doesn’t seem to be the same rate as in April, and I think health care has improved considerably. Health care providers are much more qualified to care for people with Covid-19, ”she said. “Nevertheless, with this large number of cases, I think we will see more and more deaths continuously. “
“It’s everywhere” in Texas
Deaths from Covid-19 started increasing slightly in Texas about two weeks ago, according to Spencer Fox, associate director of the University of Texas-Austin’s Covid-19 Modeling Consortium.
“I don’t think this is something unexpected,” he said in an interview with CNBC. “I think it was more a question of when we would start to see an increase, rather than if we would start to see an increase. ”
His team’s model does not predict an increase in deaths as rapid as that seen in March and April in the northeast and other parts of the country, he said. But hospitalizations have increased at a worrying rate, he said, indicating that the elderly and the most vulnerable are infected. He added that infections among young people were a “leading indicator” of a worsening epidemic that was to affect the most vulnerable populations in the state.
“This resurgence could have started in younger populations; perhaps they were the first to be infected. But clearly, these populations are not isolated from older individuals, “said Fox. “This is a real resurgence of the epidemic. It is not limited to only young people who are more likely to survive. She is everywhere. “
Death to follow
He added that his team’s model predicts that deaths will continue to increase for two weeks “at least, if not more, depending on the real reaction of the state.”
Understanding the reality of the epidemic is difficult to look at just the national numbers, said Kaiser Levitt, as New York’s progress in tackling the epidemic has outweighed the worrying numbers elsewhere. He added that the death toll is a particularly difficult figure to track due to the differences in reporting standards between states.
He said now that there was an observable increase in deaths, the trend is expected to continue for a number of weeks or even months as newly infected people get sick, are hospitalized and eventually die.
“I think next week the pattern of increased deaths will become clear,” he said. “And it will no longer be possible to pretend that the drop in mortality is somehow a success. “