The CDC has been tracking how many deaths have been reported in 2020 and comparing them with other years

Usually, between February and September, about 1.9 million deaths are reported. This year, it’s closer to 2.2 million

Nearly 300,000 more people have died in the United States in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic than would be expected based on historical trends, with at least two-thirds due to Covid-19, a government report showed, adding that Covid deaths likely were undercounted.

The report from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that 299,028 more people died between January 26 and October 3 than the average numbers from past years would have indicated.

CDC said that about 216,000 US deaths from the coronavirus had been reported by the middle of October. “This might underestimate the total impact of the pandemic on mortality,” it said.

“There are many factors that could contribute to an increase in deaths indirectly due to the pandemic, with disruptions to health care being one factor,” study author Lauren Rossen, from CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, said.

The count could miss deaths indirectly related to the pandemic, caused by disruptions in health care access or utilisation, and from conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and respiratory diseases, the report said. But it also could reflect rises in non Covid-19 related deaths.

The team took the actual number of deaths in the specific weeks in each of the five previous years and used them to estimate the expected deaths for the same weeks in 2020. Then they compared those expected deaths to the actual deaths reported to the National Vital Statistics System by all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The report authors also calculated how much higher the weekly death tolls were in 2020 compared with the expectations based on averages from years past. By this measure, excess deaths peaked during the week of April 5-11, when actual deaths were 40.4 per cent higher than would have been expected in a normal year.

A second peak occurred during the week of August 2-8, when actual deaths were 23.5 per cent higher than they should have been.

The US has experienced excess deaths every single week since March, the authors noted.

The researchers also examined excess death rates by age group and by race and ethnicity.

It’s been well established that the older people have a higher the risk of dying of Covid-19. But the oldest Americans aren’t the ones who experienced the biggest jump in excess deaths. That dubious distinction goes to adults ages 25 to 44 – deaths for people in this age group were 26.5 per cent higher than expected over the 36-week period.

Although the CDC also counts Covid-19 deaths in more direct ways, there’s value in tabulating excess deaths, the researchers wrote. The result may provide a more comprehensive picture of the pandemic’s toll by including people who died of Covid-19 but were never tested for a coronavirus infection. In addition, it can capture deaths that were caused by the virus indirectly.

The findings may help public health officials hone their efforts to reduce new infections and eliminate the health inequities made plain by the pandemic, the researchers wrote.

“CDC continues to recommend the use of masks, frequent handwashing, and maintenance of social distancing to prevent Covid-19,” they added.

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