Are we OVER or UNDER counting COVID-19 deaths?

Data and Metrics Data Literacy Uncertainty and Misinformation

A: We are likely UNDER counting official deaths due to COVID-19.

How do we know? While we are not necessarily good at attributing deaths accurately to specific causes, developed countries are good at counting ALL deaths.

While some deaths attributed to COVID-19 would have occurred during this period anyway, we can calculate “EXCESS MORTALITY” – the number of deaths above and beyond those that would have been expected based on previous years.

We are re-posting last month’s explainer on “EXCESS MORTALITY,” along with these recent updates on excess mortality estimates in the US through July 25th and broken down by regions.

TL;DR: In the US since March-July 25th, roughly 200,000 more people have died than usual, which is around 60,000 more than the number of official COVID-19 deaths.
In this figure from the above link you can see how excess deaths have tracked the epidemic regionally hitting the Northeast first and the West and South more recently. This strongly suggests these deaths are mostly COVID-19 related rather than indirect due to lockdown.

We know this topic riles up some folks who firmly believe we are counting everyone who dies in a motorcycle accident with a positive COVID-19 test as a COVID-19 death. The statistical beauty (and sadness) of excess mortality is that we count ALL THE BODIES, a statistic which is actually hard to fudge.

See our previous post for additional context and international excess mortality links.

Link to original FB post