Alan Lopez, a laureate professor and director of the University of Melbourne’s global burden of disease group, believes that the actual fatality toll from Covid-19 may be closer to 1.8 million as opposed to the officially recorded 1 million deaths.
“One million deaths has meaning by itself, but the question is whether it’s true. It’s fair to say that the 1 million deaths, as shocking as it sounds, is probably an underestimate — a significant underestimate.” Many deaths in the United States in the early phases of the virus were not tallied as official Covid-19 related deaths, and in other countries with less sophisticated health systems, we can expect more of the same. Lopez predicts the death tole could reach 3 million globally, which would make the disease one of the deadliest in history.
Christopher J. Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle, says that medical data inclusive of a patient’s illness and symptoms allow us to determine the cause of death. The issue now with this is that we are seeing large numbers of cases being reported, and then a disproportionate amount of hospital admissions or death tolls. “Yes, cases are reported daily everywhere, but as soon as you get to the next tier down, like how many were admitted to hospitals, there have just been huge gaps in the data,” Murray said.
In June the World Health Organization set out a system for classifying coronavirus deaths, telling countries that if a person had symptoms of the disease and if there was not a clear alternative cause of death, to classify it as a death related to coronavirus. The WHO says, “A Covid-19 fatality should be counted as such even if pre-existing conditions exacerbated the disease.” Lopez says, “Doctors often are learning as they go along, so they’re not certifying all the deaths that are due to Covid as Covid deaths.” Which is leading to the underreported total.
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