The covid-19 pandemic caused a horrific jump in deaths in the United States last year, according to new research published on Friday. According to the study, over half a millions more people died more than they would have expected in the last 10 months of 2020. Most of these deaths are directly due to the viral disease, but some may also represent health delays and other indirect consequences of the pandemic.
From the beginning, scientists and public health agencies have been following unnecessary deaths– total reported deaths above the average number observed in recent years – as a way to better understand the impact of the pandemic. Although over time, countries have become much better at identifying covid-19 cases and related deaths, our official tolls are still an understatement of the damage they cause. In the United States, studies have consistently shown a significant difference between redundant deaths and those officially associated with covid-19.
Covid-19 may have been in the United States as early as the end of 2019, but the first peak of the disease and death began by March 2020. This new study,, published On Friday at JAMA and led by researchers from the University of the British Commonwealth of Virginia, analyzed data on mortality in the United States from 1st March, 2020 to January 1, 2021
In between those months, the team estimated that the country had experienced 522,368 deaths compared to the past five years. Although mortality tends to increase slightly each year (partly due to the growing population), this usually only results in the death rate being exceeded by 1% to 2% per year. In 2020, however, this period saw a 22.9% jump in unnecessary deaths, the authors found.
“The 22.9% increase in all-cause mortality reported here far exceeds the annual increases observed in recent years,” the authors write.
Only this week data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cemented that covid-19 was the third leading cause of death in the United States last year, with nearly 350,000 deaths officially attributed to it. In this study, researchers calculated a similar direct death toll (378,039 deaths) from covid-19, representing about 72% of the excess deaths they found.
Much of the remaining 28% could be hidden deaths from the pandemic or deaths from causes that worsen after surviving covid-19. The infection is suspected to increase the risk of life-threatening health problems such as heart attack and stroke, as well as the risk of death from chronic conditions such as diabetes and dementia. But some countless deaths are also likely the result of an indirect impact from the pandemic, which has affected people who have never even been infected with the virus. There is evidence, for example, that shows that visits to the emergency department or hospitals refused last year, especially during the peak of the pandemic.
Although no country has completely avoided the pandemic, it is likely that the United States and local states could have done a much better job of preventing a significant number of these deaths, according to researchers.
“Excess deaths increased in the east in April, followed by prolonged summer and early winter waves, concentrated in the southern and western states, respectively,” they wrote. “Many of these countries have poorly adopted or discouraged pandemic measures and lifted restrictions earlier than other countries.”
Other figures show that more than 3.1 million people died in the United States last year significant increase from the previous year, unseen since 1918, when World War I and the deadliest pandemic in recorded history continued.