July 12, 2022

US Fatalities in March 2022 Were Likely Below Pre-Pandemic Levels

US Fatalities in March 2022 Were Likely Below Pre-Pandemic Levels

According to the CDC, 822 fewer people died in the week ending March 12, than the comparable week in 2019.  That is about 1.4% reduction.  If you adjust the 2019 fatalities by the US population growth since then, the reduction is 3.1%.  This is the first week since the pandemic began that fewer people have died in the US than 2019.  So far, that trend is continuing through the balance of March and April.

The CDC’s Excess Death analysis shows that fatalities for March currently equal to what would normally be expected.  However, the CDC calculation of expected deaths is a simple arithmetic average of the fatalities for 2017-2019 compared to this year with no adjustment for population growth, which seems very misleading to me.

There will be a few more fatalities recorded before the March number is finalized.  But it is over three months past the end of March, so those numbers should be pretty close to the final count.

However, the CDC COVID data tracker shows that about 300 people a day are still dying from COVID.    If all of those deaths are incremental to the nation’s normal mortality, an excess death analysis should show that fatalities are running about 6% higher than normal, which they are clearly not.  The anomaly is further exacerbated by the fact that some causes of death, such as overdoses and homicides, are up significantly this year.

Some of the anomaly comes from a timing difference.  The fatalities in the excess death analysis are based on the date of death and the CDC data tracker numbers are a mixture of report date and date of death.  But I also suspect that COVID, and especially pneumonia from COVID, is displacing some other end of life conditions.  Also, I have not been able to find any current data on how many of the death certificates list COVID as the principal cause death, in contrast to one of the other underlying conditions.  So, we could be seeing a higher number of people dying with COVID as opposed to from COVID.

In any event, it is welcome news that the incidence of fatalities now appears to be at or below the pre-pandemic rates.  Hopefully that holds through the winter flu/COVID season.  Who knows, we might even start doing something about overdoses and homicides and see a dramatic reduction in the number of American dying.

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