Critical Information

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May 11, 2020 8:45 p.m.

One of the signatures of the COVID19 crisis in the US is how little critical information came from the US government sources. The canonical source of death tolls in and out of the United States is a project at Johns Hopkins University. The canonical sources of testing and infection data is a volunteer project spearheaded by a data guy and a journalist at The Atlantic. Yet even in the Trump Era the CDC does continue to do some public health research and publish their findings. Here’s a write-up from Josh Kovensky on a new CDC report which looks at excess mortality data to find that more than 24,000 people in New York died between March 11th and May 2nd as a result of the epidemic.

Critically, this does not mean that 24,000 people died as the result of a COVID19 infection. This draws in the number of people who would not have died if the crisis had never occurred. The great majority will be COVID19 deaths. But some – an unknown number will be deaths from the knock-on effects of the crisis.

This is the approach I’m pleased to say our team has been discussing and tracking since late March. It’s the same approach that was used by researchers to show that the loss of life in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria was in the thousands rather than the few dozens from the official tally.

To put this number in some context, as of yesterday New York City reports 14,753 confirmed COVID19 deaths and an additional 5,178 probable deaths. The difference is whether there was a lab-confirmed test or a diagnosis based on symptoms. The total is 19,931. The CDC estimate is as of 9 days ago. So we are talking about four to five thousand additional deaths.

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