574,000 More U.S. Deaths Than Normal Since Covid-19 Struck

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Weekly deaths above and below normal in the U.S. since 2015

Since March 2020, about 574,000 more Americans have died than would have in a normal year, a sign of the broad devastation wrought by the coronavirus pandemic.

An analysis of mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows how the pandemic is bringing with it unusual patterns of death, even higher than the official totals of deaths that have been directly linked to the virus.

Deaths nationwide were 21 percent higher than normal from March 15, 2020, to Feb. 20, 2021. Our numbers may be an undercount since recent death statistics are still being updated.

Our analysis examines deaths from all causes — not just confirmed cases of coronavirus — beginning when the virus took hold in the United States last spring. That allows comparisons that do not depend on the accuracy of cause-of-death reporting, and includes deaths related to disruptions caused by the pandemic as well as the virus itself. Epidemiologists refer to fatalities in the gap between the observed and normal numbers of deaths as “excess deaths.”

Public health researchers use such methods to measure the impact of catastrophic events when official measures of mortality are flawed.

As Covid-19 cases have spread across the country, the geographic patterns of abnormal mortality statistics have followed. Excess deaths have peaked three times, so far, as have deaths from Covid-19.

There are now excess deaths in nearly every state, with surges in states like Arizona, California, Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia fueling record death tolls in recent weeks.

Weekly deaths above and below normal since March 15, 2020

United States

March 15 – Feb. 20

Reported Covid-19 deaths

497,343

Total excess deaths

574,300

Total above normal

21%

Alabama

March 15 – Feb. 27

9,930

12,900

25%

Alaska

March 15 – Jan. 30

253

500

13%

Arizona

March 15 – March 6

16,323

19,600

32%

Arkansas

March 15 – March 6

5,297

6,800

21%

California

March 15 – Feb. 27

51,974

69,800

27%

Colorado

March 15 – March 6

6,073

7,500

19%

Connecticut

March 15 – Feb. 6

7,214

8,000

28%

Delaware

March 15 – Feb. 6

1,202

1,600

20%

Florida

March 15 – March 6

31,616

35,900

17%

Georgia

March 15 – Feb. 27

16,755

21,200

25%

Hawaii

March 15 – Feb. 27

436

60

1%

Idaho

March 15 – Feb. 20

1,829

1,900

14%

Illinois

March 15 – Feb. 27

22,710

24,000

23%

Indiana

March 15 – Jan. 30

9,967

11,500

20%

Iowa

March 15 – Feb. 20

5,336

5,000

17%

Kansas

March 15 – Feb. 27

4,734

5,100

20%

Kentucky

March 15 – Feb. 20

4,585

7,500

16%

Louisiana

March 15 – Feb. 20

9,439

11,100

25%

Maine

March 15 – March 6

704

800

6%

Maryland

March 15 – March 6

7,941

10,200

20%

Massachusetts

March 15 – Feb. 27

16,067

10,200

18%

Michigan

March 15 – Feb. 20

16,332

19,500

21%

Minnesota

March 15 – Feb. 27

6,543

6,100

14%

Mississippi

March 15 – Feb. 27

6,669

9,000

29%

Missouri

March 15 – Feb. 20

8,151

11,900

19%

Montana

March 15 – Feb. 27

1,357

1,700

17%

Nebraska

March 15 – Feb. 20

2,169

2,700

17%

Nevada

March 15 – Feb. 27

4,957

5,800

22%

New Hampshire

March 15 – Feb. 27

1,170

1,100

9%

New Jersey

March 15 – March 6

23,555

23,500

32%

New Mexico

March 15 – Feb. 13

3,518

4,300

25%

New York (excluding N.Y.C.)

March 15 – March 13

18,195

24,100

24%

New York City

March 15 – March 13

30,173

31,500

58%

North Carolina

March 15 – Sept. 26

3,458

6,300

12%

North Dakota

March 15 – Feb. 6

1,453

1,400

21%

Ohio

March 15 – Feb. 27

17,239

22,400

19%

Oklahoma

March 15 – Feb. 20

4,155

7,900

21%

Oregon

March 15 – Feb. 20

2,158

3,300

10%

Pennsylvania

March 15 – Feb. 20

23,615

25,300

20%

Puerto Rico

March 15 – Dec. 19

1,342

1,700

8%

Rhode Island

March 15 – Feb. 13

2,290

2,000

21%

South Carolina

March 15 – March 6

8,719

12,000

24%

South Dakota

March 15 – Feb. 13

1,837

1,800

24%

Tennessee

March 15 – Feb. 27

11,299

14,200

19%

Texas

March 15 – Feb. 27

43,772

57,800

29%

Utah

March 15 – March 6

1,975

2,900

15%

Vermont

March 15 – March 13

214

600

12%

Virginia

March 15 – March 6

9,518

12,200

18%

Washington State

March 15 – Feb. 20

4,846

5,000

9%

Washington, D.C.

March 15 – Feb. 20

994

1,400

24%

West Virginia

March 15 – Jan. 16

1,761

2,800

15%

Wisconsin

March 15 – Feb. 27

7,019

8,200

16%

Wyoming

March 15 – Feb. 20

662

900

22%

Counting deaths takes time, and many states are weeks or months behind in reporting. These estimates from the C.D.C. are adjusted based on how mortality data has lagged in previous years. It will take several months before all these numbers are finalized.

During the period of our analysis, estimated excess deaths were 15 percent higher than the official coronavirus fatality count. If this pattern held through March 24, the total death toll would be about 628,000.

For comparison, around 600,000 Americans die from cancer in a normal year. The number of unusual deaths for this period is also higher than the typical number of annual deaths from Alzheimers, stroke or diabetes.

Measuring excess deaths does not tell us precisely how each person died. Most of the excess deaths in this period are because of the coronavirus itself. But it is also possible that deaths from other causes have risen too, as hospitals in some hot spots have become overwhelmed and people have been scared to seek care for ailments that are typically survivable. Some causes of death may be declining, as people stay inside more, drive less and limit their contact with others.

Drug deaths also rose steeply in the first half of 2020, according to preliminary C.D.C. mortality data that runs through June of last year, a trend that began before the coronavirus pandemic arrived.

Methodology

Total death numbers are estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which are based on death certificates counted by the centers and adjusted to account for typical lags in the reporting of deaths. Coronavirus death numbers are from the New York Times database of reports from state and local health agencies and hospitals. Covid-19 deaths include both confirmed and probable deaths from the virus.

Our charts show weekly deaths above or below normal. They include weeks in which the C.D.C. estimates the data to be at least 90 percent complete or estimated deaths are above expected death numbers. Because states vary somewhat in their speed in reporting deaths to the federal government, these state charts show death trends for slightly different time periods. We have not included weeks in which reported deaths were less than 50 percent of the C.D.C. estimate. North Carolina data has not been available from the C.D.C. since October 2020.

Expected deaths were calculated with a simple model based on the weekly number of all-cause deaths from 2015 to 2019, adjusted to account for trends, like population changes, over time.

Excess death numbers are rounded.

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