Why a lot more people have died from COVID than is being reported.

Contrary to what Trump has been saying about hospitals inflating their numbers to get more grant money… (at this point I think we just believe the opposite of whatever he says)… a ton more people have died of COVID than is being reported in the databases and the news. According to data tracking by The Economist, in the US, there have been at least 54,000 extra COVID deaths than reported. This was as of July 10th (the most recent data they present) when ~133,000 US citizens had been reported to have died. The real number was ~175,000. That means we have at least 225,000 deaths right now in America, probably many more than that. In some other countries, the number of deaths is orders of magnitude higher than reported. In Mexico City, three times as many people have died (~27,000) than has been reported (~9,000). The reason is pretty simple and we have irrefutable evidence to prove it.

The reason is that in order to prove that a death is from COVID, a person needs to have been tested for COVID. Otherwise, you can’t prove that it’s not flu or pneumonia so you can’t be 100% certain they died of COVID even if they have all the symptoms and we are in a COVID pandemic. Here is how the Economist explains it:

“First, the official statistics in many countries exclude victims who did not test positive for coronavirus before dying—which can be a substantial majority in places with little capacity for testing. Second, hospitals and civil registries may not process death certificates for several days, or even weeks, which creates lags in the data. And third, the pandemic has made it harder for doctors to treat other conditions and discouraged people from going to hospital, which may have indirectly caused an increase in fatalities from diseases other than covid-19.”

The economist (and scientists everywhere)

The irrefutable evidence? A measure called excess deaths, which means deaths above average in other years accounting for COVID deaths. Here are some pretty pictures to explain. The interactive hover version is in the Economist article:

So you can see that a lot more people died of COVID in New York and New Jersey than was reported. Many more people have also died in the Spain, Italy, and the Netherlands. This makes the comparisons being drawn between Sweden and those countries pretty unfair. It also explains why Belgium’s death rate is amongst the highest— they actually reported correctly for whatever reason (better testing etc)- they don’t have excess deaths.

This is also a reason that I think some states (NY, NJ) and countries (Sweden) are almost certainly now herd immune. More on that later but many people are not considering that possibility because they don’t realize that there are 10x the number of cases (according to the CDC antibody tests) and 30% more deaths than are being reported. (The opposite of what Trump is saying). This is really important to know because it affects policy, people’s lives, and the economy. Places that are herd immune would be much safer to reopen and go back to school for example.

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