A Look at the Covid-19 Death Toll Data

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The latest data showing surrounding Covid-19 has the United States ranked first in total cases, new cases per day, and deaths.  From March to September, 200,000 or 12% of all deaths in the United States, are Covid-19 related. 

Genevieve Briand, an assistant program director of the Applied Economics master’s degree program at Johns Hopkins, studied the data from the CDC of coronavirus deaths as they relate to the total number of deaths in the US.  She believes this is the best way to understand the significance of the covid-19 related deaths.  She says, “The reason we have a higher number of reported COVID-19 deaths among older individuals than younger individuals is simply because every day in the U.S. older individuals die in higher numbers than younger individuals.”

After studying trends from years previous, Briand has come to the conclusion that Covid-19 has not increased the total number of deaths.  She focused study on years 2014 to 2020 and saw that there is a sudden increase in deaths this year due to Covid-19.  However, in 2018, there was another seasonal increase related to heart disease, respiratory diseases, and influenza and pneumonia.

Briand noted, “This is true every year. Every year in the U.S. when we observe the seasonal ups and downs, we have an increase of deaths due to all causes.”  So, when She began looking through the 2020 data during this season period, Covid-19 related deaths exceeded those from heart disease.  This is unusual considering heart disease is always the leading cause of deaths in the nation. This is a pattern unlike any other that Briand studied over the last few years.

Briand believes that deaths due to heart diseases, respiratory diseases, influenza and pneumonia may instead be recategorized as being due to COVID-19. “All of this points to no evidence that COVID-19 created any excess deaths. Total death numbers are not above normal death numbers. We found no evidence to the contrary.” She continues, “If [the COVID-19 death toll] was not misleading at all, what we should have observed is an increased number of heart attacks and increased COVID-19 numbers. But a decreased number of heart attacks and all the other death causes doesn’t give us a choice but to point to some misclassification.”

Another student at Hopkins, Poorna Dharmasena, a master’s candidate in Applied Economics said in response to Briand’s findings, “At the end of the day, it’s still a deadly virus. And over-exaggeration or not, to a certain degree, is irrelevant.”

For more updates about Covid-19 be sure to check back with the ABN Blog regularly.

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