Study Reveals Unrecorded COVID-19 Deaths Linked to Excess Mortality in US Counties

Philadelphia, PA – A new study led by the School of Public Health and the University of Pennsylvania sheds light on the true impact of COVID-19 on excess mortality rates in the United States. The study, published in the journal PNAS, presents compelling data indicating that many deaths attributed to natural causes were actually uncounted COVID-19 deaths.

According to official federal counts, nearly 1,170,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the United States. However, multiple excess mortality studies suggest that these numbers are significantly underestimated. The new study focused on comparing reported COVID-19 deaths to excess deaths caused by non-COVID, natural factors like diseases and chronic illnesses. It found a correlation between increases in non-COVID excess deaths and reported COVID-19 deaths in most US counties.

Lead by Andrew Stokes and Eugenio Paglino, the researchers analyzed monthly data on natural-cause deaths and reported COVID-19 deaths in 3,127 counties over the first 30 months of the pandemic. They estimated that 1.2 million excess natural-cause deaths occurred during this period, with approximately 163,000 of these deaths not listing COVID-19 on the death certificates.

The study also highlighted geographical differences in death patterns, showing that non-COVID excess deaths exceeded reported COVID-19 deaths in rural areas, the West, and the South. In contrast, metropolitan areas in New England and the Mid-Atlantic states reported more COVID-19 deaths than non-COVID excess deaths.

The findings underscore the importance of accurate death investigations during epidemics to understand the disease’s impact fully and organize an effective response. The researchers hope that this new data will encourage further analyses using hospitalizations and local data to differentiate uncounted COVID-19 deaths from excess natural-cause deaths and external deaths.

The study’s coauthors emphasized the necessity of resources and commitment to ensure accurate death investigations, emphasizing the importance of providing families with clear information on the cause of death. The research also debunked political assertions and public beliefs attributing pandemic mortality to COVID-19 vaccinations or shelter-in-place policies.

Overall, the study serves as a crucial contribution to understanding the true toll of COVID-19 and the effectiveness of public health interventions. It highlights the need for accurate data to make informed decisions about public health and ensure that every individual’s cause of death is properly documented.