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Total number of deaths in the USA before COVID-19 and in 2020?

Medical Sciences Asked by live-love on August 29, 2021

I would like to compare before and after COVID-19. I want to know if there was a raise, how high, and if there was a shift from other causes to COVID-19.

The media is very biased and only reports the total number of COVID deaths. I need to know the truth. Did the number of deaths really change from 2018, 2019 and 2020?

This is the 2020 statistics I could find, but it’s an estimation:

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/vsrr/covid19/index.htm

This is the quartely update, we shall see 2020 here soon:

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/vsrr/mortality-dashboard.htm

Total deaths for 2020 up until 7/21: 1,466,723

IMO, this appears lower or similar to 2019 with over 1.6 million in the first 2 quarters.

One Answer

The best data source for looking at total deaths in the COVID-19 era is to look at the CDC's excess deaths data. These data compare actual death data (blue) to seasonal trends (yellow), and indicates weeks for which deaths are greater than would be seasonally expected:

CDC weekly deaths

You'll note some peaks above expected associated with a worse than average influenza year in 2017-2018, and from COVID-19 in mid-2020.

There are some important things to consider when looking at these data, copied from text at that link, with some bold added by me:

Number of deaths reported on this page are the total number of deaths received and coded as of the date of analysis and do not represent all deaths that occurred in that period. Data are incomplete because of the lag in time between when the death occurred and when the death certificate is completed, submitted to NCHS and processed for reporting purposes. This delay can range from 1 week to 8 weeks or more, depending on the jurisdiction and cause of death.

Therefore, you should take the data on the far right of the graph in particular as likely incomplete; they will rise over time as more deaths are tallied.

Additionally, these are not purely raw deaths, but rather corrected for known sources of error in the data collection. There are also options to display the data without weighting, but these even further underestimate the more recent time points. Data through May are more complete than more recent data.

Answered by Bryan Krause on August 29, 2021

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