February 29, 2024

New Analysis Points to Uncounted COVID-19 Deaths as a Cause of Excess Mortality

A recent study conducted by Boston University School of Public Health and the University of Pennsylvania reveals compelling evidence that excess mortaality rates attributed to natural causes during the COVID-19 pandemic were actually a result of uncounted COVID-19 deaths. This study contradicts previous claims that these excess deaths were caused by factors such as COVID-19 vaccinations or shelter-in-place policies.

Official federal counts state that almost 1,170,000 people in the United States have died from COVID-19. However, multiple excess mortality studies suggest that the actual death toll is significantly higher. Excess mortality refers to deaths that exceed the number that would typically occur under normal, non-pandemic circumstances. Little evidence has been available to determine whether these excess deaths were directly caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus or by other factors such as healthcare disruptions or socioeconomic challenges.

Published in the journal PNAS, the new study examined reported COVID-19 deaths alongside excess deaths due to non-COVID natural causes, such as chronic illnesses and diseases. The researchers discovered that increases in non-COVID excess deaths coincided with or occurred shortly before increases in reported COVID-19 deaths in most counties across the US.

Focusing on excess deaths from natural causes rather than all-cause excess death estimates provides a more accurate understanding of the true number of deaths attributable to COVID-19. This approach eliminates external causes of mortality, such as injuries, for which COVID-19 would not be a contributing factor.

Dr. Andrew Stokes, the corresponding author of the study and associate professor of global health at BUSPH, emphasizes that the findings indicate a significant undercounting of COVID-19 deaths throughout the pandemic. Surprisingly, these undercounts persisted beyond the initial phase of the pandemic.

The temporal correlation between reported COVID-19 deaths and excess deaths from non-COVID natural causes sheds light on the causes of these deaths. The researchers observed peaks in non-COVID excess deaths occurring in the same month or prior to reported COVID-19 deaths. This pattern suggests that these excess deaths were unrecognized COVID-19 deaths that went uncounted due to low community awareness and a lack of COVID-19 testing.

The study’s lead author, Eugenio Paglino, a Ph.D. student studying demography and sociology at UPenn, notes that if the primary explanation for these deaths were healthcare interruptions and delays in care, non-COVID excess deaths would be expected to occur after a peak in reported COVID-19 deaths. However, this pattern was not observed nationally or in any of the assessed geographic subregions.

Furthermore, these findings debunk political assertions and public beliefs that have attributed mortality during the pandemic to COVID-19 vaccinations or shelter-in-place policies. The study provides strong evidence that the uncounted COVID-19 deaths were a significant driver of excess mortality rates from natural causes.

This study highlights the importance of accurate and comprehensive data collection during public health emergencies. Understanding the true impact of COVID-19 on mortality rates is crucial for developing effective strategies to mitigate the spread of the virus and minimize its impact on public health.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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