Excess Deaths During The Pandemic

Posted on by NCHS

On October 20, 2020, NCHS published an article in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), which focused on one of the key measures related to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic. “Excess Deaths Associated with COVID-19, by Age and Race and Ethnicity — United States, January 26–October 3, 2020,” focused on the number of persons who have died from all causes, in excess of the expected number of deaths for a given place and time, starting with the period when the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in the U.S.  The authors write, “Estimates of excess deaths can provide a comprehensive account of mortality related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including deaths that are directly or indirectly attributable to COVID-19. Estimates of the numbers of deaths directly attributable to COVID-19 might be limited by factors such as the availability and use of diagnostic testing (including postmortem testing) and the accurate and complete reporting of cause of death information on the death certificate. Excess death analyses are not subject to these limitations because they examine historical trends in all-cause mortality to determine the degree to which observed numbers of deaths differ from historical norms.”  The article shows that overall, an estimated 299,028 excess deaths occurred in the United States from late January through October 3, 2020, with an estimated two out of three excess deaths (198,081) attributed to COVID-19.

The largest percentage increases were seen among adults aged 25–44 years and among Hispanic or Latino persons.  These results inform efforts to prevent mortality directly or indirectly associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, such as efforts to minimize disruptions to health care.  The full MMWR article can be found here:  https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6942e2.htm?s_cid=mm6942e2_w.  NCHS also has a page on its website specifically dedicated to excess deaths in the U.S., going back to 2017 and updated weekly:  https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/vsrr/covid19/excess_deaths.htm.

Posted on by NCHS
Page last reviewed: October 26, 2020
Page last updated: October 26, 2020