The number of people who died in the early weeks of the pandemic’s grip on the US far exceeded what would be expected in a normal year – and nearly doubled the number of coronavirus deaths counted by early April, new research reveals.
Between March 1 and April 4 of this year, there were 15,400 ‘excess deaths’ compared to years prior, the Yale University and Washington Post investigation found.
Only 8,128 coronavirus deaths had been recorded in the US by April 4.
The research team believed the abnormally high number of deaths likely reflects how the coronavirus killed Americans during those five weeks.
In hard-hit states like New York and New Jersey, the number of excess deaths is twice to three times higher than the number of coronavirus deaths recorded, according to the preprint of the study published on Medrxiv.org.
It comes as University of California, Berkeley, researchers used data on excess deaths in Italy to predict that the Mediterranean nation’s coronavirus fatality rate may be eight times greater higher than the flu’s, and estimated that 0.5 percent of infected people in New York City will die.
Between March and April, the number of ‘excess deaths’ soared, especially in states hard-hit by the pandemic, like New York, New Jersey and Washington state, maps from the Yale University preprint show
Coronavirus fatality and infection rates have and will continue to shift constantly as testing for infections and antibodies – immune cells that the body generates in response to infection, whether or not someone developed symptoms – ramp up and more cases and deaths are confirmed.
In the early days of the pandemic, health officials as well as President Trump sought to quell fears by citing a comforting – if roughly calculated – statistic: coronavirus was no more deadly than the flu, which kills about 0.1 percent of those infected each year.
So far in the US, more than 56,000 people have died of coronavirus in the four months since the first case was reported in late January in Washington state.
Over the course of this flu season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that between 24,000 and 62,000 people have died of the seasonal virus.
Driven in part by the predictable increase in flu deaths between December and March, daily and monthly death rates are higher in these months than during the rest of the year.
The average number of daily deaths in the US is 7,708, but in the winter months (January, February and December) it’s consistently higher – 3,478, 8,351, and 8,344 deaths a day, respectively.