Nearly 300,000 more people have died in the United States during this year’s coronavirus pandemic than would be expected during a typical year, with at least two-thirds thought to be caused by COVID-19, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a report released on Tuesday.
The CDC said 299,028 more people died between January 26 and October 3 than the average numbers from the previous four years (2015 – 2019) would have indicated.
That compares with about 216,000 COVID-19 deaths reported by October 15.
“This might underestimate the total impact of the pandemic on mortality,” it said.
The report found excess deaths have occurred in the US every week since March 2020 reaching a peak in the weeks ended April 11 and August 8. Excess deaths are defined as the number of people who have died from all causes, in excess of the expected number of deaths for a given place and time.
In some countries, operations have been deferred and access to treatment for other illnesses has become more difficult as hospitals have struggled to cope with the burden of treating those with COVID-19. Fear of contracting the disease has also made some people wary of seeking treatment.
“Estimates of excess deaths attributed to COVID-19 might underestimate the actual number directly attributable to COVID-19 because deaths from other causes might represent misclassified COVID-19 related deaths or deaths indirectly caused by the pandemic,” the report noted.
“Specifically, deaths from circulatory diseases, Alzheimer disease and dementia, and respiratory diseases have increased in 2020 relative to past years, and it is unclear to what extent these represent misclassified COVID-19 deaths or deaths indirectly related to the pandemic (because of disruptions in health care access or utilization).”
The US is battling a resurgence of the coronavirus, which has pushed the number of daily cases to levels not seen since July, at a time when the weather is getting colder and people are spending more time indoors.
The CDC data shows disproportionate increases in excess deaths among Hispanic and Black people – groups who are more likely to develop severe complications from COVID-19.
The largest average percentage increase in deaths occurred among Hispanic people (53.6 percent), with deaths 32.9 percent above average among Black people and 36.6 percent above average for Asians. For white people, deaths were 11.9 percent higher.
The CDC said the largest percentage increase in excess deaths from all causes was among adults aged 25–44 years: 26.5 percent.
“The age distribution of COVID-19 deaths shifted towards younger age groups from May through August,” the report noted, but said more studies were needed to assess the extent to which the increase in deaths was driven by the coronavirus or other causes.
The US has reported 220,921 deaths from COVID-19, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.
The country’s confirmed caseload and death toll are the highest in the world and the government’s handling of the pandemic has become a key issue in the presidential elections that take place on November 3.