A new analysis found that during the early weeks of the coronavirus outbreak, the number of excess deaths in the US far exceeded the number of deaths attributed to COVID-19, according to The Washington Post.
In other words, the numbers suggest that the pandemic's death toll could be vastly higher than what the government has been reporting so far.
Official records collected from the beginning of March through early April and released by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) were analyzed by a team of Yale School of Public Health experts. The analysis showed an estimated 15,4000 excess deaths — twice as many as those attributed to the deadly coronavirus at the time.
The excess deaths, however, can't directly be blamed on the virus itself, as the number likely includes those who didn't seek medical treatment for other illnesses due to fear of catching the coronavirus at a medical treatment facility. Other factors, including statistical variabilities and fluctuations in different causes of death, could also explain the difference.
Even correcting for lags in reporting numbers — something the NCHS's tally takes into consideration — only two thirds of excess deaths are accounted for, according to the Yale researchers.
According to official accounts, about 55,000 people have died from the coronavirus nationwide.
"The death toll is being held up by everyone, really, as a pretty direct metric for assessing the competence of the federal response," Jeremy Konyndyk, a former USAID official, told the Post.
Some states are trying to get a better and more accurate look at how devastating the pandemic has really been. In a response to concerns that the death tally wasn't accurate, New York governor Andrew Cuomo agreed in a news conference last week that his state's numbers are "not an accurate total number of deaths, in my opinion," and conceded that "that number is going to go up."