The Louisiana coronavirus pandemic marked some of the deadliest months recorded for the state. Between March 1 and August 1, about 24,000 people died, a 27 percent increase over the same five-month period over the past six years, according to a new study analyzing deaths during the pandemic.
These cases are what scientists call excessive mortality – the difference between reported deaths and expected deaths. The loss of life reflects the true victim of the virus, which affects a much larger number of those who die after infection with COVID-1
Louisiana’s increase is higher than the US average, which was 20%, according to an analysis published in the peer-reviewed Journal of the American Medical Association. Of all the states, Louisiana ranks fourth in the percentage of unnecessary deaths per capita, behind New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts.
In the last seven months, Louisiana hospitals have had to deal with countless challenges as the coronavirus strains their staff and hospital capacity.
According to the study, three quarters of excess deaths in Louisiana are due to coronavirus. But about 25% or 1,232 people are unaware of COVID-19 infection.
“For every three people known to have died from COVID-19 in Louisiana, another person has died from some aspect of the pandemic,” said Dr. Stephen Wolfe, study author and epidemiologist at the University of Virginia in the UK. community.
Within these 25% there are two groups of people. Some of these people are infected, but their death certificate is not mentioned – probably because they died at home or was not confirmed in a laboratory before or after death.
The second group consists of people who were not infected but died due to the health disruption caused by the pandemic.
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“There are people who die of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, etc. due to interruptions in their care, “Wolfe said.
In Louisiana, the death rate from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia has doubled. There were 64 such deaths in the first week of 2020, but 127 in the week ending April 11 at the peak of the virus. Mortality from diabetes has also increased significantly, Wolfe said.
These disruptions are due to both fears of seeking care during the pandemic and a strained medical system, he said.
“I guess these intermittent deaths happen more during surges when the system is overloaded,” Wolfe said. “In calmer times, people go out for meetings and the health system has the capacity to deal with them. When hospitals are overcrowded and emergency patients are in the corridors because there is no room for them, this is an environment in which we worry about these types of deaths, which occur more often. “
The report’s findings coincide with what the state has reported and what doctors see in hospitals, said Dr. Rebecca Guy, chief executive of the LSU Health Services Division and former secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health.
Gee, who was not involved in the study, said that while New Orleans was an early outbreak, the state’s cautious approach to reopening prevented it from experiencing dramatic leaps like neighboring countries, which is another point in line with the findings. the study.
“Clearly, the governor’s orders such as masking and disabling bars are effective,” Ji said. “We know these things work.”
A new report finds that about one in three Louisians is obese, making it one of 12 states with an obesity rate above 35%.
The New Orleans death curve is A-shaped – meaning there was a big peak in April that largely fell away. The Louisiana curve is also A-shaped, with a second, smaller jump in July. This reflects Louisiana’s approach to recovery and represents a shorter period of widespread infection. The same is not true of other countries, Wolfe said.
“What we’ve seen with this is a phenomenon with states that opened early – Florida, Texas, Arizona – their curve doesn’t look like a capital A,” Wolfe said. “The duration of the epidemic was much longer. This is a study in contrast to the epidemiology of the virus, but also in public policy. “
In addition to those who die, each additional death creates a ripple that affects much more. An average of nine family members are affected by each death, creating about two million additional mourning, according to an accompanying study. In Louisiana, that would be 45,468 more people grieving in March to August than in a typical year.
And redundant deaths, calculated using data from the National Center for Health Statistics, are only immediate deaths. Experts expect slower-moving causes of death – suicide, substance abuse and cancer – to be among the victims of the pandemic.
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“We certainly see people increasing substance use as a result of anxiety and depression,” Ji said. “Death from cancer does not happen quickly. We know that routine colonoscopies and mammograms have been canceled in a few months. We may see worse cancer outcomes at a later stage of diagnosis. “
If the trend continues, experts expect 400,000 redundant deaths in the United States by the end of 2020, according to an editorial by the editor-in-chief of JAMA. Approximately as many American lives were lost during World War II.
The numbers – both coronavirus deaths and indirect deaths – depend on behavior.
“We can reduce that number,” Wolfe said. “Death from other causes makes it important for people who have warning signs such as chest pain and symptoms that could be a stroke not to hesitate to call 911. We do not want them to participate in these statistics.”
Emily Woodruff covers public health for The Times-Picayune The New Orleans lawyer as a member of the corps of the report on America.