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Tuesday, April 14, 2020

A Trend of Decline in Overall Deaths? Or just a delay in reporting?

The CDC has chart which contains information about deaths from COVID 19 as well as deaths from pneumonia, and influenza. The charts and support are here, but here is the interesting graphic:

Click on chart to enlarge

If I am reading this chart correctly, there has been a decline in the number of "expected deaths" ("Percent of expected deaths is the number of deaths for all causes for this week in 2020 compared to the average number across the same week in 2017–2019. Previous analyses of 2015–2016 provisional data completeness have found that completeness is lower in the first few weeks following the date of death") since February 1. This is subject to the CDC caveat that
NOTE: Number of deaths reported in this table are the total number of deaths received and coded as of the date of analysis and do not represent all deaths that occurred in that period.

*Data during this period are incomplete because of the lag in time between when the death occurred and when the death certificate is completed, submitted to NCHS and processed for reporting purposes. This delay can range from 1 week to 8 weeks or more, depending on the jurisdiction, age, and cause of death.
Still, it's interesting to see that during the week of Feb 1, 56,461 deaths of all causes occurred and that this represents 95% of "average deaths" - which means that the "usual" number for projected deaths for that period was 59,432. Now go down the chart to the week of 28 March - deaths from all causes is set as 48,682 or 87% of average deaths (55,956 being that number). The following week of 4 April, the total number of deaths from all causes is 38,203 or 73% of expected deaths (52332 expected). Both of these week include reported deaths from COVID-19.

It will interesting to see, as the CDC gets in more info for those weeks, whether this decline in overall deaths from all causes is a continuing trend and what factors may contribute to it.

As set out here, about 40,000 people die each year in traffic deaths, roughly 110 per day, so on any given week, we'd expect 770 traffic deaths. With reduced traffic due to COVID-19 stay at home rules, perhaps 60% of those could have been avoided, but that's only about 462 avoided deaths, which is but a small fraction of the "missing deaths" for the weeks I cited (.008 for week of 28 March and .009 for the week of 4 April).

Something to keep an eye on.

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