A total of 38,824 people died in motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. in 2020, 2,570 (7.1%) more than forecast from models developed using data from 2011 through 2019 (Figure). In April 2020—the first full month of the pandemic—the number of fatalities was much lower than what would have been expected based on pre-pandemic trends. By May 2020, however, the actual number of fatalities was similar to historical levels. The number of fatalities greatly exceeded forecasts based on pre-pandemic trends for the remainder of 2020. In May through December collectively, there were a total of 28,611 traffic fatalities nationwide, which was 3,083 (12.1%) more than expected based on pre-pandemic trends.
The increase in traffic fatalities was not uniform across crash-, vehicle-, and driver-related factors. Scenarios present in greater than expected numbers in fatal crashes in 2020 included evening and late-night hours, speeding drivers, drivers with illegal alcohol levels, drivers without valid licenses, drivers of older vehicles, drivers of vehicles registered to other people, crash involvement and deaths of teens and young adults, and deaths of vehicle occupants not wearing seatbelts. In contrast, several crash types followed pre-pandemic trends (e.g., crashes in the middle of the day; crash involvements of drivers with valid licenses; pedestrian fatalities), and a few decreased (e.g., crashes of elderly drivers; crashes during typical morning commute hours).
COVID-19 had a huge mortality impact in the US in 2020 and accounted for most of the overall reduction in 2020 life expectancy at birth. There were also extensive racial/ethnic disparities in the mortality impact of COVID-19 in 2020, with the Black and Latino populations experiencing reductions in life expectancy at birth over twice as large as that of the White population. Despite continued vulnerability of these populations, the hope was that widespread distribution of effective vaccines would mitigate the overall mortality impact and reduce racial/ethnic disparities in 2021. In this study, we quantify the mortality impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on 2021 US period life expectancy by race and ethnicity and compare these impacts to those estimated for 2020. Our estimates indicate that racial/ethnic disparities have persisted, and that the US population experienced a decline in life expectancy at birth in 2021 of 2.2 years from 2019, 0.6 years more than estimated for 2020. The corresponding reductions estimated for the Black and Latino populations are slightly below twice that for Whites, suggesting smaller disparities than those in 2020. However, all groups experienced additional reductions in life expectancy at birth relative to 2020, and this apparent narrowing of disparities is primarily the result of Whites experiencing proportionately greater increases in mortality in 2021 compared with the corresponding increases in mortality for the Black and Latino populations in 2021. Estimated declines in life expectancy at age 65 increased slightly for Whites between 2020 and 2021 but decreased for both the Black and Latino populations, resulting in the same overall reduction (0.8 years) estimated for 2020 and 2021.
Author(s): Theresa Andrasfay, Noreen Goldman
Publication Date: 31 Aug 2022
Publication Site: PLOS ONE
Citation: Andrasfay T, Goldman N. Reductions in US life expectancy during the COVID-19 pandemic by race and ethnicity: Is 2021 a repetition of 2020? PLoS One. 2022 Aug 31;17(8):e0272973. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0272973. PMID: 36044413; PMCID: PMC9432732.
As the first quarter of 2022 came to an end and the United States passed the two-year anniversary of the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, total state tax revenue was at its highest level since just before its historic decline in early 2020. Collections were 18.1% greater than those for the final quarter of 2019, after adjusting for inflation and averaging across four quarters to smooth seasonal fluctuations. Only Wyoming and North Dakota had not taken in enough revenue to surpass their pre-pandemic levels.
Nationwide and in 31 states as of the end of the first quarter of 2022, cumulative tax receipts since the pandemic’s start, adjusted for inflation, were even higher than they would have been if pre-COVID growth trends had continued—despite fallout from the pandemic and a two-month recession. According to Pew estimates, Idaho led all states, with 16% more cumulative tax revenue than it would have collected under its pre-pandemic growth rate. New Mexico was second at 15.5% above the trend. Nationally, combined tax revenue at the end of the first quarter of 2022 was 3% above estimates of what might have been collected had the pandemic not occurred.
However, estimates also show that cumulative tax revenue fell short of its pre-COVID growth trend in slightly more than a third of states since the pandemic’s onset, and most other states’ recoveries largely followed historical trends.
Looking at cumulative totals since the start of the pandemic offers a way to identify states in which tax revenue has over- or underperformed since January 2020, based on pre-COVID trends. This approach also provides a different view of the strength of collections from the often-astonishing quarterly and annual percentage increases that were skewed by this particularly volatile period. For each of the nine quarters from Jan. 1, 2020 to March 31, 2022, Pew calculated the difference between actual tax revenue and estimates of how much each state would have collected had revenue grown at its pre-pandemic, five-year average annual growth rate.
The mortality burden of the COVID-19 pandemic was particularly heavy among older adults, racial and ethnic minorities, and those with underlying health conditions. These groups are known to have higher mortality rates than others even in the absence of COVID. Using data from the 2019 American Community Survey, the 2018 Health and Retirement Study, and the 2020 National Vital Statistics System, this paper estimates how much lower the overall mortality rate will be for those who lived through the acute phase of the early pandemic after accounting for this selection effect of those who died from COVID. Such selection may have implications for life insurance and annuity premiums, as well as assessments of the financial standing of Social Security – if the selection is large enough to substantially alter projected survivor mortality.
The paper found that:
10-year mortality rates, absent direct COVID deaths and long COVID, will likely be lower in 2021 than anticipated in 2019.
However, these differences are small, ranging from a decline of 0.4 percentage points for people in their 60s to 1 percentage point for those in their 90s.
The small difference is in spite of the fact that COVID mortality was, indeed, very selective, with mortality declines exceeding half the maximum possible declines, holding total COVID deaths constant, for every age group.
The policy implications of the findings are:
That declines in mortality due to COVID selection likely will not impact overall population mortality substantially enough to affect Social Security cost projections.
Any impact of selection effects on Social Security costs will likely be swamped by ongoing mortality increases directly attributable to acute and long COVID.
Author(s): Gal Wettstein, Nilufer Gok, Anqi Chen, Alicia H. Munnell
Publication Date: August 2022
Publication Site: Center for Retirement Research at Boston College
We show that Covid-19 illnesses persistently reduce labor supply. Using an event study, we estimate that workers with week-long Covid-19 work absences are 7 percentage points less likely to be in the labor force one year later compared to otherwise-similar workers who do not miss a week of work for health reasons. Our estimates suggest Covid-19 illnesses have reduced the U.S. labor force by approximately 500,000 people (0.2 percent of adults) and imply an average forgone earnings per Covid-19 absence of at least $9,000, about 90 percent of which reflects lost labor supply beyond the initial absence week.
Gopi Shah Goda Evan J. Soltas
Publication Date: Sept 2022
Publication Site: Stanford University, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR)
The data used for this analysis was provided by the CDC as of August 17, 2022 and includes incurred deaths by week, beginning on December 29, 2019 and going through July 2, 2022. For 2020, the CDC defines Week 1 as ranging from December 29, 2019 through January 4, 2020 and Week 52 as ranging from December 19, 2020 through December 26, 2020, so when reporting on 2020 results, this convention is used. The year 2021 begins on December 27, 2020 and runs through January 2, 2022. For the purposes of this analysis, the start of the COVID-19 active period is March 22, 2020. Due to the delay in reporting, the actual deaths have been completed based on factors that vary by age and sex. These are shown below along with the expectations that are based on the five-year trend after adjusting for seasonality.
These data are as of August 17, 2022 and exclude deaths that occurred after July 2, 2022. Figure 1 shows that, for most months, the total A/E ratio is much greater than 100%, while the A/E ratio excluding COVID19 deaths is also greater than 100% by a few percent.
Author(s): Rick Leavitt, ASA, MAAA
Publication Date: August 2022
Publication Site: Society of Actuaries Research Institute
The numbers of expected deaths are estimated using statistical models and based on previous 5 years’ (2015 to 2019) mortality rates. Weekly monitoring of excess mortality from all causes throughout the COVID-19 pandemic provides an objective and comparable measure of the scale of the pandemic [reference 1]. Measuring excess mortality from all causes, instead of focusing solely on mortality from COVID-19, overcomes the issues of variation in testing and differential coding of cause of death between individuals and over time [reference 1].
In the weekly reports, estimates of excess deaths are presented by week of registration at national and subnational level, for subgroups of the population (age groups, sex, deprivation groups, ethnic groups) and by cause of death and place of death.
Author(s): Office for Health Improvement and Disparities
James Belich’s new book, “The World the Plague Made: The Black Death and the Rise of Europe,” shows the depth and longevity of the controversy over the sources and impacts of an era-defining scourge. Belich, an Oxford University historian,suggests that what is now known as the Black Death was so consequential that its effects equal those of the Enlightenment, the Reformation, the Industrial Revolution, and the Renaissance. It’s a staggering implication, but he makes a decent case for it in this bold, tremendously researched work. From illustrating the plague’s effects globally to showing how central it was to Europe’s ascension, Belich demonstrates that the medieval pandemic influenced many aspects of human life.
Once called the Great Death or the Great Plague, the pandemic lasted hundreds of years and was so deadly that it is still popularly referred to simply as the Plague. “The Black Death Pandemic, beginning in 1345, persisted for more than three centuries and involved about 30 major epidemics in all,” writes Belich. What’s more, it “did not always behave like the modern pandemic,” he writes further on. “It killed far more people, for one thing.” Belich’s book implicitly underscores that, compared to the devastation of the plague, Covid-19 is relatively insignificant.
Just how many deaths was the Black Death responsible for? Despite centuries of debate on the subject, there is no consensus. The common belief is that the first wave killed between 25 percent and 33 percent of Western Europeans. (The historian Barbara Tuchman advanced the one-third estimate in her best-selling 1978 book about the 14th century, “A Distant Mirror.”) Belich suggests that the number was far higher. In the first strike alone, the population of Western Europe was cut in half, he writes, citing studies about the death rates in England, France, Italy, and Scandinavia. Many places didn’t return to their pre-plague population levels for some 250 years. (Despite his claims, the true extent of the toll is still widely contested.)
In Belich’s view, what made the plague different from other major historical events and catastrophes was that, while it decimated the human population, it left the material world untouched. It “doubled the average amount per person of everything,” from horses to housing, he writes. For a time, this meant more resources for survivors and greater access to luxury goods, better living conditions, and higher wages for workers.
Dr. Ding is a member of a shrinking club of people who are pretty sure they have never been infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. Geneticists and immunologists are studying factors that might protect people from infection, and learning why some are predisposed to more severe Covid-19 disease.
For many, the explanation is likely that they have in fact been infected with the virus at some point without realizing it, said Susan Kline, professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota Medical School. About 40% of confirmed Covid-19 cases are asymptomatic, according to a meta-analysis published in December in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
More than two years into the pandemic, most people worldwide have likely been infected with the virus at least once, epidemiologists said. Some 58% of people in the U.S. had contracted Covid-19 through February, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated. Since then, a persistent wave driven by offshoots of the infectious Omicron variant has kept daily known cases in the U.S. above 100,000 for weeks.
Yet some people haven’t gotten sick or tested positive.
The impact of Covid-19 in South Africa in terms of excess deaths was substantial, when considering the reported excess deaths as published by the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC). Please note that in this article we will not further consider whether all excess deaths can be directly attributed to Covid-19, however, as per the article “Correlation of Excess Natural Deaths with Other Measures of the Covid-19 Pandemic in South Africa,” it is estimated that 85 percent to 95 percent of excess natural deaths are attributable to Covid-19.
Based on the SAMRC excess deaths, taking the expected plus excess deaths as Actual and expected natural deaths as per their methodology as Expected, we observe an Actual versus Expected (AvE) ratio of 116 percent in 2020, a ratio of 131 percent in 2021, and a ratio of 113 percent in 2022 up to May 1. When we look at the AvE for each wave, we can see that the 2nd wave (predominantly Beta variant) and the 3rd wave (predominantly Delta variant), had the most severe impact on the general population (see figure 2 and figure 3)
RETHINKING UNINSURABILITY While many have viewed insurability as a binary choice with respect to a risk (i.e., insurable or uninsurable), insurability is more appropriately considered on a continuum, ranging from easy-to-insure, such as automobile or life insurance, to difficult-to-insure, such as pandemic, loss of the electrical grid, and other extreme catastrophic risks.
FRAMEWORK The role of private and public sectors in dealing with risks that are difficult-to-insure should be to develop strategies that enable a greater degree of insurability. To do so, the framework suggests that policymakers consider three fundamental options in dealing with the insurance industry:
Status Quo (SQ) –This option (SQ) contemplates a similar dynamic to that experienced with COVID-19, wherein businesses, nonprofits, and local governments found limited (if any) insurance coverage for their losses and ex post relief programs funded by the government.
Service Provider (SP) – This option (SP) contemplates an administrative, non-risk-bearing role for the insurance industry while the entire cost of claims would be publicly financed.
Service and Risk (SR) –In addition to its role as a service provider as characterized by SP, this option (SR) would expect insurers to commit capital – in an amount that does not threaten their financial viability – to cover a specified layer or other defined element of losses.