As of April 4, Weekly Total Deaths Have Yet to Show a Nationwide Surge
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Information on total deaths through April 4 shows no indication of a general surge in deaths in the United States. It's quite possible that we'll see April's total mortality begin to show levels well above normal, but the weekly data we have so far show no indication of this.
We now have data up through week 14 (the week ending April 4, 2020) for this year, as can be found here.
In fact, the average total deaths for this year (averaging the first 14 weeks of the year for each year) shows a decline in 2020. Average weekly deaths in the US up through April 4 were 55,149 in the US. During 2017 and 2019, the average was over 57,000. During 2018, the average was over 59,000.
For the single week ending April 4, total deaths numbered 49,292. That's down from the previous week, and also down from 2019's week 14 total of 56,593. It's also down from 2017's week 14 total of 57,972, and down from 2018's total of 59,771.
Totals for all deaths are an important metric to follow because the CDC is now encouraging healthcare administrators to be "liberal" with assigning COVID-19 as the cause of death. Total deaths thus provide much-needed context. If COVID-19 deaths surge but total deaths increase by a much smaller amount, this helps us better understand the extent to which the general population is directly affected by the disease.
While average total deaths remain down nationwide, we do nonetheless find some places where total deaths have indeed increased significantly. In New York State, for example, week 14 showed about 1,000 deaths above the expected number of deaths of the period. Specifically, during week 14, there were 3,182 deaths reported in New York. That's up by more than 50 percent from week 14 of 2017–19. Clearly, total deaths are well above normal in New York. New York State has a total of approximately 19 million people.
But New York is atypical.
Colorado, an alleged "emerging area of concern," shows an increase of 8.9 percent (or 66 total deaths) above total mortality for week 14 of 2019. Week 14 of 2020 is 5.2 percent (or 40 total deaths) above 2018. The average for the first fourteen weeks of the years was up 4 percent (or 32 deaths) compared to 2019, and up 3.1 percent (or 25 deaths) compared to 2018. Colorado has a population of about 5.7 million people. Unless COVID-19 was present in Colorado long before many experts insist is possible, the higher death totals have largely occurred before COVID-19 was known to be in the state. The first four weeks of 2020, for example, were already at elevated levels. The 2020 weekly high (so far) of 865 people was recorded during week 8, which occurred in late February.
Meanwhile, in Florida the average for total deaths for weeks 1–14 is up 2.1 percent (up 86 people) over 2019. But 2020's average is still down 1.8 percent (or 79 people) from 2018's average. Week 14 itself was below total deaths for 2017, 2018, and 2019, with a total of 3,710 deaths. That's down by 9.5 percent compared to week 14 of 2019 (4,100 deaths), and it's down by 8 percent from 2018's week 14 total (4,034 deaths). Florida has a total of over 21 million people.
Of course, it is entirely possible that total deaths are pushed down by social distancing practices. With fewer vehicles on the road, there are fewer auto accidents. Diseases other than COVID-19 might be spread less often as well. On the other hand, economic collapse exacerbated by social distancing may be leading to more suicide and stress-related health problems. The extent to which these various factors contribute to overall mortality is unknown, and may never be known. But what does appear evident is that deaths due to COVID-19, at least so far, have not been sufficient to increase nationwide total mortality to a level that significantly exceeds what has been seen in the past decade.