Many conspiracy theories claim that the true number of COVID-19 deaths is much lower officially reported, essentially suggesting that the threat of the pandemic has been blown out of proportion for various nefarious purposes. Well, the opposite is actually true. If anything, there have been more fatalities that can be attributed to COVID-19 than previously reported.
According to researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, about 75,000 more Americans lost their lives due to the pandemic between March and July, the authors reported in the journal JAMA. During the same period, around 150,000 deaths were officially attributed to COVID-19.
The true human cost of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.
These excess deaths weren’t caused by an infection with SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus responsible for the respiratory illness COVID-19. Instead, the researchers claim these deaths are the result of a series of events set in motion by the pandemic, so they can be indirectly attributed to COVID-19. These include deaths due to illnesses such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and heart disease owed to delayed care and fear of becoming infected with the virus which prevents people from seeking medical attention at a hospital.
“Although total US death counts are remarkably consistent from year to year, US deaths increased by 20% during March-July 2020. COVID-19 was a documented cause of only 67% of these excess deaths. Some states had greater difficulty than others in containing community spread, causing protracted elevations in excess deaths that extended into the summer. US deaths attributed to some noninfectious causes increased during COVID-19 surges. Excess deaths attributed to causes other than COVID-19 could reflect deaths from unrecognized or undocumented infection with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 or deaths among uninfected patients resulting from disruptions produced by the pandemic,” the authors wrote in their study.
There are many deaths due to Alzheimer’s or diabetes every year, but during the study period fatalities attributed to these illnesses have soared in the same states that recorded the most COVID-19 deaths in spring. These include New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts.
But although these three states experienced a surge of cases and deaths in spring, these were relatively short-lived, resulting in a “A-shaped” quick rise and sudden fall in fatalities. The Sunbelt states, however, experienced a gradual increase in excess deaths in March and April, only to skyrocket in June. These events coincide with the easing of restrictions in these states.
Overall, more than 7.7 million people have been infected with the coronavirus in the US and 214,377 have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. By February 2021, the COVID-19 death toll in the country could double to 400,000, according to a model developed at the University of Washington School of Medicine.