COVID deaths under reported, JAMA study shows

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), a peer-reviewed medical journal, released a study earlier this month showing that COVID-19 deaths underestimated the full death toll, which includes documented and undocumented deaths from the virus and non–COVID-19 deaths caused by disruptions from the pandemic.

U.S. death trends, the report says, are remarkably stable from year to year, and data from 2014 through this year were used.

That trend of higher than expected deaths was seen in an earlier JAMA study covering March and April, 2020, with 65-percent of those deaths attributed to COVID-19. In the five states with the most confirmed cases, deaths from non-COVID causes, including heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimers, increased sharply.

Between March 1 and August 1, 2020, 1,336,561 deaths occurred in the US, a 20% increase over expected deaths. The 10 states with the highest per capita rate of excess deaths were New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Louisiana, Arizona, Mississippi, Maryland, Delaware, Rhode Island, and Michigan.
The states with the highest per capita rate of excess deaths changed from week to week.

The increase in absolute deaths in these states relative to expected values ranged from 22% in Rhode Island and Michigan to 65% in New York. Three states with the highest death rates, New Jersey, New York, and Massachusetts, accounted for 30-percent of U.S. excess deaths but had the shortest epidemics.

States that experienced acute surges in April and reopened later had shorter epidemics that returned to baseline in May, whereas states that reopened earlier experienced more protracted increases in excess deaths that extended into the summer

(Figure Cut)The figure plots weekly excess deaths for the 10 states with the largest number of excess deaths during March-July 2020. Reopening dates refer to the lifting of broad coronavirus disease 2019 restrictions, as reported by the New York Times.

Of the 225,530 excess deaths, 150,541 or 67-percent, were attributed to COVID-19. U.S. mortality rates for heart disease increased between weeks ending March 21 and April 11, driven by the spring surge in COVID-19 cases. Mortality rates for Alzheimer disease/dementia increased twice, between weeks ending March 21 and April 11 and between weeks ending June 6 and July 25, the latter coinciding with the summer surge in sunbelt states.

For Idaho, 5,819 deaths were expected for the period, but 6,377 people died, an excess of 558. Idaho lost 178 to COVID-19 during that time, 32-percent of the excess deaths. In Montana, still lightly touched by COVID-19 at the time, 4,297 deaths were expected, 4,379 actually occured, 26, 32-percent attributed to COVID-19.

As of 4 p.m. Pacific time today, Idaho has had 48,663 cases confirmed, 597 in the last day, and 510 deaths. Montana, as of 10 a.m Mountain time today, has 19,125 confirmed cases, 423 new in the previous 24-hours, and 212 deaths.

Nationwide, 46.069 new cases today bring the total to 7,804,336, and 494 Americans died today, bringing the death toll to 215,086.