Roughly 20 percent more deaths than usual were reported in the United States between March and August, according to new research published by the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association on Tuesday.
A total of 1,336,561 deaths occurred between March 1 and Aug. 1, researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University and Yale School of Public Health found by analyzing provisional data from the National Center for Health Statistics. Based on historic trends, the number of deaths expected during that time period was 1,111,031.
Typically, the number of deaths reported each year is “remarkably consistent,” the researchers write. The increase between March and August amounts to 225,530 excess deaths, or roughly a 20 percent jump.
Only two-thirds of those excess deaths were attributed to covid-19, the researchers say, which in some cases could mean that infections went undiagnosed or unreported. In other instances, it could reflect deaths that resulted from the disruptions caused by the pandemic.
The 150,541 excess deaths attributed to covid-19 between March and August are roughly consistent with official tallies released by state health departments — according to data tracked by The Washington Post, the nationwide death toll reached 150,000 on July 31. The count of fatalities now stands at 214,000.
The study has certain limitations, such as its reliance on provisional data. But an accompanying editorial from JAMA’s top editors says that its importance “cannot be overstated, because it accounts for what could be declines in some causes of death, like motor vehicle crashes, but increases in others, like myocardial infarction.”
The tally reflects “a true measure of the human cost of the Great Pandemic of 2020,” the editors write, noting that armed conflicts like the Vietnam War and Korean War resulted in the loss of fewer American lives.