COVID-19 research briefs: COVID-19 responsible for excess mortality in the United States in 2020

Daily POEMs

Published: 2020-11-22 © 2020 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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Clinical question
What effect has COVID-19 had on the mortality rate in the United States between March and August 2020?

Bottom line
Between March and August 2020, the United States has experienced 20% more deaths than otherwise would have been expected, two-thirds of which were directly attributed to COVID-19. (LOE = 2c)

Woolf SH, Chapman DA, Sabo RT, Weinberger DM, Hill L, Taylor DDH. Excess deaths from COVID-19 and other causes, March–July 2020. JAMA 2020 Oct 20;324(15):1562-1564.

Study design: Time series

Setting: Population-based

Research Brief #67: These investigators obtained population and mortality data for 48 of the 50 states for 2014–2020 from the US Census Bureau and the National Center for Health Statistics to assess excess deaths attributable to COVID-19. (North Carolina and Connecticut were excluded because of incomplete data.) Expected deaths, calculated with data from 2014–2019, were compared with observed deaths in 2020. Between March 1 and August 1, 2020, there were 1,336,561 deaths, 225,530 (20%) more deaths than expected, of which 150,541 (67%) were attributed to COVID-19. The 10 states with the highest per capita rate of excess deaths were New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Louisiana, Arizona, Mississippi, Maryland, Delaware, Rhode Island, and Michigan. The 33% of excess deaths NOT attributed to COVID-19 were likely due to a combination of increased deaths from other causes, deaths from causes in which COVID-19 may have contributed, and deaths from respiratory illness for which COVID-19 was not diagnosed.

Henry C. Barry, MD, MS
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI

Copyright © 2020 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.