Federal data released this week shows that the number of deaths recorded in the U.S. this year is higher than normal, outpacing deaths attributed to COVID-19 in states that have been hit hardest by the virus.The data provides the first look at death trends this year across the country and offers more evidence that the official tally of coronavirus deaths is low.The phenomenon is pronounced in states with some of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks. From March 22 to April 11, New York saw 14,403 more deaths than the average of the previous six years, according to data maintained by the l Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. New Jersey saw an additional 4,439 deaths and Michigan an additional 1,572.
The “excess deaths” surpassed COVID-19 fatalities in those states by a combined 4,563 people. Experts suspect that unconfirmed coronavirus cases could be responsible for some of those deaths, but it might also be related to a shift in other causes of death. For example, some doctors speculate people might be dying from illnesses from which they would normally recover because the pandemic has changed access to health care.“When we begin to look at it retrospectively, it’s going to help discern, or maybe develop a more accurate estimate of what the true number of deaths might have been from COVID-19,” said Dr. Matthew Boulton, a professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health who also serves as Editor-in-Chief for the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
It’s more difficult to gauge how much of a factor the missing COVID-19 deaths could be when looking at the entire country.