TECH REPORTER
  • New Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data show the death toll from coronavirus is much higher than the official numbers, particularly if officials include the number of people who have died from heart attacks and other treatable illnesses. 
  • Officials say including deaths from second-order effects from the virus gives the public a better understanding of the health crisis’s magnitude.
  • Data show that some of the total death numbers have skyrocketed in the seven states, including New York and New Jersey, that have suffered the worse from the pandemic 

The official coronavirus death toll hit 63,000 Thursday as the virus upturns everyday life, but newly released federal health data suggest the number of dead could be much higher if the count includes sick people who died because of stress to the medial system.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show total deaths are nearly 50% higher in states slammed by the coronavirus pandemic. Death numbers in New York, Maryland, New Jersey, Michigan, Massachusetts, Illinois and Colorado leaped between March 8 and April 11, data show. Whether or not the official numbers change due to the new data depends on a few factors.

The number of deaths during this period is more than three times the normal number for New York, where COVID-19 has killed thousands, according to the data, which were initially reported by The New York Times on Wednesday. (RELATED: Death Tolls Jump In Cities Hit Hardest By Coronavirus As COVID Fears Lead People To Forgo Hospital Visits: CDC Data)

There have been more than 5,000 additional deaths in New Jersey compared with an average count from half a decade ago, data show. The situation is similar in Michigan, where nearly 2,000 more deaths have transpired in the Wolverine State relative to the death toll five years ago, according to the CDC’s new numbers.

The big increase is happening in large part because of fear people have visiting the hospital if they experience health issues.

Research shows the virus, which has killed more than 60,000 people in the United States, is placing pressure on the health care system.

Hospital admissions for a serious type of heart attack, for instance, fell nearly 40% in nine U.S. hospitals in March amid the pandemic, according to The NYT, which cited an April 7 draft paper from the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Researchers also expect suicide rates to dramatically increase as the pandemic drags on. That prospect becomes especially acute after governors and mayors began shutting down their economies to slow the spread. Unemployment numbers skyrocketed after stay-at-home orders were instituted — roughly 30 million have filed for unemployment in the six weeks since the lockdowns began.

Analysts say adjusting the death toll upward because of these second-hand effects gives a better understanding of the magnitude of the health crisis.

“It gives you an overall sense of how big things are,” Samuel Clark, a professor of sociology at Ohio State University, told TheNYT. “For now, you can basically attribute the excess mortality to Covid-19. But you also grab all the things that are not Covid at all, but are probably created by the situation.”

Health officials made similar calculations after Hurricane Maria ramrodded its way through Puerto Rico in 2017. Initial estimates showed the massive hurricane killing 64 people on the island, but those numbers were eventually adjusted upward as officials began to factor deaths from other factors not directly related to the storm.

George Washington University (GWU) researchers estimated that up to 2,975 people died on the island from September 2017 through February 2018, a number that is substantially higher than what was the initial number up to that point. Puerto Rico’s government commissioned the research.

GWU notes that the previous count was too low because Puerto Rican physicians did not know how to appropriately tally deaths attributed to the storm.

Physicians counted those that died as a direct result of Maria, such as from flying debris or flooding, but they did not include fatalities due to the after effects, such as a lack of power infrastructure, which had been cut off following the hurricane.

– CHRIS WHITE

 

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