Last September I wrote about how the media has focused most of its attention upon COVID-19 cases rather than on COVID-19 deaths. You can read it here. I want to give an update.
In the article I expressed my concern that the media was focusing upon the number of COVID-19 cases, which is difficult to measure. This focus gives a faulty picture of reality, when the vast majority of those with COVID-19 survive the disease. Also, when the media reports the number of “COVID-19 deaths,” the true picture is not seen. This is because there are (relatively) few who die from COVID-19. It is most often the case that people die with COVID-19 because of co-morbidities.
With these factors in mind, I argued that we should focus more of our attention upon the number of excess deaths we have seen since the onset of COVID-19. The excess deaths are the number of deaths occurring above average. I argued that this is a better determination of the effect of COVID-19 than the number of cases.
In this update, I want to present a few updated graphs. Rather than relying upon the media, I grabbed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website (cdc.gov), where deaths in our nation are reported. If you are of the research type and want to scour the data for yourself, you can find them here: https://data.cdc.gov/NCHS/Weekly-Counts-of-Deaths-by-State-and-Select-Causes/muzy-jte6 and here: https://data.cdc.gov/NCHS/Weekly-Counts-of-Deaths-by-State-and-Select-Causes/3yf8-kanr.
Anyway, here are a few updated graphs. They show the number of deaths in each year week by week. January is “week 1” and the last week in December is “week 52.” Because of the lag in reporting, the graphs are current as of a few weeks ago (i.e. early April). Further, the numbers in March and April may change slightly as more data comes into the CDC.
First of all, here is the graph of deaths in the United States:
Here are some observations. First of all, you can see the clear anomaly of 2020 (the dark-blue line). For the first 13 weeks of the year, all looked normal. However, somewhere around week 14 (mid March), our weekly death totals began to spike. Seeing this trend, our governments enforced their lockdowns. Further, the winter months were difficult for our nation as people were forced indoors. During these months we experienced a drastic increase in the number of deaths above average. Also, notice how the deaths have declined at the beginning of 2021 (the red line). We have even descended into the normal range!
Looking at the numbers, from 2014-2019 we averaged about 53,000 deaths each week (or 2.75 million deaths every year). In 2020 (the dark blue line) we averaged about 64,000 deaths each week (or 3.33 million deaths). That totals 580,000 excess deaths in 2020 above average. In 2021 (the red line) we see the numbers still above average. In looking at the numbers (as of early April), we have experienced 816,000 deaths in America, which is above the 690,000 average by this time. This means that in 2021 alone, we have experienced 126,000 excess deaths. When you total this up, America has experienced 706,000 deaths above average since the pandemic began.
So, when we speak about the number of COVID-19 deaths in our nation, this is the current number that we should be using: 706,000. Unfortunately, that’s not the way that our media is reporting deaths in the United States. Looking at our local paper for today, we are reporting 574,679 deaths in America from COVID-19. Thus, the press is under-reporting the true effect of COVID-19! Interestingly, the source of this number is the CDC! This is because of the way that COVID-19 deaths are recorded. When someone dies in the United States, he/she will be counted as a COVID-19 death if they die with a positive COVID-19 test. There are those who have died (because of some COVID-19) effect where a positive test was not recorded.
I have one final observation about the graph above. It concerns this point:
This is the point where our death totals in 2021 have sunk into our average levels of death totals in the United States. It happened about the 10th or 11th week of the year (i. e. late March). This is good news in our fight against this disease! Unfortunately, the press has been silent about this phenomenon.
Surely, this intersection on the graph is a result of the number of those who have been vaccinated in our nation. We began mass vaccinations at the beginning of the year. Although we are approaching only 50% of the population being fully vaccinated, we began with those who were most “at risk.” Thus, the majority of our most vulnerable people have been vaccinated. I would suspect that the 2021 line could continue to descend, possibly even below average, as COVID-19 hastened the death of the most vulnerable people in our society. In other words, COVID-19 brought on many “earlier-than-expected” deaths, a portion of which would have died in 2021, but were included in the 2020 statistics. We shall see.
Here are some more graphs for you to examine. First of all, a graph of Illinois (where I live):
You can see the same pattern as the United States. We had a spike in March-April 2020 followed by another gradual increase during the winter months (2020-21). We have been in the “normal” range since the 10th week of 2021 (mid-March) as the red line shows.
Here are a few others for you. I have chosen states that I included in my September article for you to compare, along with a few others I found interesting.
New Yorkers have experienced some extremes. They have spiked high and low.
The weather is nice in California. They are only indoors a small portion of the winter.
Arizona also saw a heightened spike in the summer and in the winter. Those in Arizona are often indoors in the summer due to such high heat.
Montana was flat for a long time, but had their own spike in the fall of 2021.
South Dakota has been more “open” in their handling of COVDI-19. Many were concerned about the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally that was held in August held in August each year (approximately weeks 32-33). It brought only an uptick in South Dakota until their big surge in November. Yet, many at the Sturgis Rally returned to their home states, where their effect may have been felt to a greater degree.
Iowa experienced a recent record low for deaths in week 11 of this year (late March). However, this number may go up a little as further reporting to the CDC comes in.
The same is true for Indiana. But again, these numbers for 2021 may go up slightly as more reporting comes into the CDC from the state.
These graphs tell their own story. COVID-19 has had a devastating effect upon our nation and upon our world. Many Americans have died. But we can see the light ahead.