Coronavirus Pandemic Blamed for 300K Excess US Deaths

A sign greets visitors outside the Curb Event Center at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., on Tuesday as preparations take place for the second presidential debate. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

(CN) — Nearly 300,000 more Americans have died so far in 2020 than in a typical year, the Centers for Disease Control and Protection said Tuesday, which includes the U.S. death toll from Covid-19 plus deaths indirectly tied to the pandemic.

In the agency’s latest weekly mortality report, the CDC found an estimated 299,028 excess deaths occurred between January and October. Two-thirds of those deaths are directly attributed to the coronavirus.

The CDC also found the largest increases in excess deaths occurred in two demographics: Hispanics and adults aged 25-44.

“The age distribution of Covid-19 deaths shifted toward younger age groups from May through August, however, these disproportionate increases might also be related to underlying trends in other causes of death,” the CDC said. “Future analyses might shed light on the extent to which increases among younger age groups are driven by Covid-19 or by other causes of death.”

The coronavirus has claimed the lives of 220,649 Americans as of Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

“However, this might underestimate the total impact of the pandemic on mortality,” the CDC said. “Estimates of excess deaths attributed to Covid-19 might underestimate the actual number directly attributable to Covid-19, because deaths from other causes might represent misclassified Covid-19 related deaths or deaths indirectly caused by the pandemic.”

The agency found deaths from heart disease, Alzheimer disease and dementia, and respiratory diseases increased in 2020 compared to past years.

“It is unclear to what extent these represent misclassified Covid-19 deaths or deaths indirectly related to the pandemic, because of disrup­tions in health care access or utilization,” the report states.

The CDC’s findings correlate with another study released last week by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University that found deaths between March and August increased 20% over prior years with 67% of those directly due to a Covid-19 infection.

The study suggests a link between the coronavirus pandemic and deaths not directly attributed to the virus, such as delaying medical care and drug overdoses.

“Some people who never had the virus may have died because of disruptions caused by the pandemic,” said Steven Woolf, the director emeritus of VCU’s Center on Society and Health and lead author of the study, in a press release. “These include people with acute emergencies, chronic diseases like diabetes that were not properly care for, or emotional crises that led to overdoses or suicides.”

According to the CDC’s analysis, excess deaths began in March at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. From there, the country experienced spikes in excess deaths in mid-April and the beginning of August.

The VCU research also found an increase in deaths when some states began lifting restrictions on social distancing in public places.

While states like New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts were among the top 10 states with the highest per capita rate of excess deaths, the study found, the epidemic in those areas lasted less than 10 weeks. In contrast, Arizona and Florida saw a prolonged increase in deaths from the virus after reopening at the beginning of summer. 

“We can’t prove causally that the early reopening of those states led to the summer surges. But it seems quite likely,” said Woolf. “And most models predict our country will have more excess deaths if states don’t take more assertive approaches in dealing with community spread. The enforcement of mask mandates and social distancing is really important if we are to avoid these surges and major loss of life.”

The United States is currently seeing another surge in coronavirus cases with the majority coming from the Midwest, according to the Covid Tracking Project. The site found new cases have jumped 17% over the prior week with more than 50,000 new cases a day across the country. As of Tuesday, more than 8.25 million Americans have contracted the virus. 

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