Thursday, April 16, 2020

As of Late March, Weekly Mortality Data Has Yet to Show a Surge

By Ryan McMaken - April 16, 2020 at 04:24PM

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Information on total deaths through March 28 shows no indication of a general surge in deaths in the United States. It's quite possible we'll see April's total mortality begin to show levels well above normal, but the weekly data we have so far show no indication of this.

We now have data up through week 13 (the week ending March 28) for this year, as can be found here. As of April 15, the week 13 data is not yet quite complete, although the CDC lists that data as 93 percent complete.

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The missing data may yet slightly push up these totals, but given that data from hard-hit New York, New Jersey, and Michigan is already accessible for week 13, big increases from the current total are unlikely. After all, week 13's total would need to increase by 27 percent just to match 2019's week 13, as can be seen here (week 1 is the column on the left for each year. Week 13 is the column on the right):

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The average for the first thirteen weeks of the year during 2020 is 53,529. That's below 2019's average of 57,928, and well below 2018's average of 60,115. This is not surprising, since the 2017–18 flu season was especially deadly.

For additional context, I have broken out New York State. Here we do finally see a surge in total deaths during week 13.

New York was at clearly elevated levels at the end of March, although total deaths remained below what was reported during week 2 of 2018. But even with this late-month surge, total average deaths for the first thirteen weeks of the year were down in New York when compared to 2017, 2018, and 2019. If we assume New York's week 13 total points toward its high reported COVID-19 numbers, we will likely see a surge in weeks 14 and 15.

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On the other hand, Colorado, an alleged "emerging area of concern" shows no signs of a surge in total deaths. In fact, week 13 in Colorado was near a multiyear low for total deaths. For the first thirteen weeks of the year, the 2020 average (815 deaths per week) was higher than the 2019 average of 795 per week, and higher than 2018's average of 801 per week.

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Unless COVID-19 was present in Colorado long before many experts insist is possible, the higher death totals have mostly occurred before COVID-19 had time to spread. The first four weeks of 2020, for example, were already at elevated levels, and the very high total of 865 people recorded during week 8 occurred in late February.

Of course, it is entirely possible that total deaths are pushed down by social distancing practices. With fewer vehicles on the road, there are fewer auto accidents. Diseases other than COVID-19 might be spread less often as well. On the other hand, economic collapse exacerbated by social distancing may be leading to more suicide and stress-related health problems. The extent to which these various factors contribute to overall mortality is unknown, and may never be known. Moreover, the total number of deaths due to COVID-19 is unreliable since deaths are increasingly attributed to COVID-19 even when no test is performed and when other serious medical problems are present. But what does appear evident is that deaths due to COVID-19, at least so far, have not been sufficient to increase total mortality to a level that significantly exceeds what has been seen in the past decade.

Reprinted with permission from Mises.org.

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