Excess Mortality Redux: Investigating the Underestimation of COVID-19 Deaths

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In summary, the paper argues that Covid-related deaths were underreported in 2020, and that this underreporting has the potential to distort estimates of the pandemic's true magnitude.
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jim mcnamara
TL;DR Summary
Large dataset and supporting information on under reporting Covid deaths. The results for the US, for example, add about 400k deaths to the total
This is interesting from a method point of view and as a source of mortality data sets with multiple links, sources. Plus explanation.

The underlying message seems to be, IMO, under reporting mortality to varying degrees in a pandemic situation seems to be inevitable. The magnitude of deaths is estimated. Estimates are just that, estimates.


For example, the IMHE attributes an additional 400k deaths to Covid in the US, as derived from excess mortality figures. After seeing the problems with mortality reporting in the current (as of 01-07-2021) surge in India, under reporting can be seen. The magnitude is the question.

The concept, simplified:
1. for the past 10 years, say 2009-2019, we know that 2 million people died each year
    with year-to-year ±0.05 million differences.
2. in 2020 2.25 million died. 
3. Excess deaths for 2020 is (2.25 million  minus 2.05 million), which gives 0.20 million.
4. 0.10 million death certificates list Covid, another 0.10 million do not list Covid, 
    but things like  'natural causes'
5. So, what do we do with the leftover 0.10 million deaths due to something else?
Answer from IHME is some of those leftover deaths are related to Covid.

For a different approach to this kind of problem try to get the correct number deaths due to hypothermia, during the the extreme February 2021 cold snap in Texas. Good luck :smile:

See what you think.

@OmCheeto may find the IHME data sets interesting.
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I absolutely agree that excess deaths tell us something. I disagree with the people who believe that they are somehow the "gold standard" of estimation.

As the authors of the paper point out, some excess deaths are not attributable to the virus at all. Murders in Chicago (and gunshot injuries) are up by 50%, nationally the numbers seem not to be final but it's above 25%. Those are excess deaths but not Covid deaths.

In the other direction - a friend's husband died of Covid while he had advanced pancreatic cancer. He was unlikely to make it through the year. That's a Covid death that's not an excess death.

I think the real value of the sample is not in counting totals, but at looking at distributions to identify places that need as closer look. Does the excess death population match the Covid death population everywhere? If not, what does that tell us?
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Also a problem with the 'raw' excess death kind of statistics is, that the base value may change due preventive measures in effect.

Just the most obvious example: the flu were gone for this season. Well, at least where face mask was worn and distance were kept. So with flu deaths out of the picture, what is the 'excess' we can account for covid? Compared to what base?

Next, home office and traffic accidents... And so on.
Last year we (mid-europe) had ~ 20000 Covid victims, but on yearly average it came out around the limits of usual fluctuation: mostly accounted on the lower base.

Related to Excess Mortality Redux: Investigating the Underestimation of COVID-19 Deaths

1. What is "Excess Mortality Redux" and why is it important?

"Excess Mortality Redux" refers to a study that investigates the potential underestimation of COVID-19 deaths. It is important because accurately tracking and understanding the number of deaths caused by the pandemic is crucial for informing public health policies and interventions.

2. How does the study investigate the underestimation of COVID-19 deaths?

The study compares the number of deaths recorded during the pandemic to the expected number of deaths based on historical data. The difference between these numbers is referred to as "excess mortality" and can indicate potential underestimation of COVID-19 deaths.

3. What are the potential reasons for underestimation of COVID-19 deaths?

There are several potential reasons for underestimation of COVID-19 deaths, including limited testing capacity, misclassification of deaths, and delays in reporting deaths. The study aims to identify these reasons and provide recommendations for improving the accuracy of COVID-19 death counts.

4. What are some limitations of the study?

One limitation of the study is that it relies on historical data and assumes that the expected number of deaths would follow a similar pattern in the absence of the pandemic. Additionally, the study may not account for other factors that could contribute to excess mortality, such as changes in population demographics or healthcare access.

5. How can the findings of this study be used to improve public health efforts?

The findings of this study can inform public health efforts by highlighting potential areas of improvement in accurately tracking and reporting COVID-19 deaths. This can help health officials make more informed decisions and allocate resources effectively to prevent and mitigate the impact of the pandemic.

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