The U.S. on Monday crossed the threshold of 675,000 reported Covid-19 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University, which tracks data from state health authorities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the influenza pandemic killed about that many people in the U.S. a century ago, in 1918 and 1919. Both figures are likely undercounts, epidemiologists and historians say.
There are several differences between the current pandemic and the one that claimed nearly as many lives more than 100 years ago. The U.S. at that time was roughly one-third its current size, so the flu pandemic took a proportionately bigger toll on the population. That pandemic had a devastating effect on young people, including small children and young-to-middle-aged adults, while Covid-19 has hit older people hardest, according to health officials.
Ohio in February announced more than 4,000 additional deaths while reconciling its data, and Indiana added about 1,500. Smaller revisions have also recently come from Virginia, Minnesota and Rhode Island. On Thursday, authorities in West Virginia said medical providers hadn’t properly reported 168 deaths to the state’s public-health department.
“Nobody likes surprises, and nobody likes data that’s wrong because that’s what drives decisions,” said Ayne Amjad, West Virginia’s state health officer.
Like many countries, the U.S. is trying to track pandemic events nearly as they happen, and a big part of this effort has required speeding up how deaths are reported.
Description: Estimating global excess mortality, and comparing against official COVID death counts. As of date of publication, official COVID deaths globally were about 2 million (excluding: China and India, and many other large countries), while excess deaths for 2020 were about 2.8 million.
Authors: Paul Overberg, Jon Kamp and Daniel Michaels