Notes on Excess Mortality #1: Spain

A general view a temporary field hospital set at Ifema convention and exhibition of in Madrid, Spain, Thursday, April 2, 2020. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
A general view a temporary field hospital set at Ifema convention and exhibition of in Madrid, Spain, Thursday, April 2, 2020. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, espec... A general view a temporary field hospital set at Ifema convention and exhibition of in Madrid, Spain, Thursday, April 2, 2020. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez) MORE LESS
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April 8, 2020 10:56 a.m.

We’ve now seen the common pattern. A certain region or jurisdiction reports X number of COVID-19 fatalities over a given period. But when the average number of deaths for all causes is compared to these COVID-19 death tolls they are still dramatically higher than the COVID-19 numbers alone can account for. So we see a large number of unexplained deaths that are almost certainly due to the COVID-19 crisis, whether that is people dying of COVID-19 or dying from other causes at higher rates because of the social and medical care disruptions brought in its wake.

This morning TPM Reader SH sent me this article (in English) from the Spanish daily El Pais which shows another example from the Madrid region of Spain. (An earlier example came from the autonomous community (something like a US state) of Castile and Leon.)

The basic numbers. In 2019 they estimate there were 2,394 deaths between March 14th and March 31st in the Madrid region. In 2020 that number was 9,007. So a difference of 6,613. But the number of official COVID-19 deaths during that period was 3,439. So simple math, 3,174 unexplained deaths.

There’s some wobbliness in these numbers. The 2019 data was only available for the whole month of March. So the authors had to pro-rate each day to come up with this subset. The actual numbers may differ slightly. They are also only using the 2019 numbers. That’s not an average, just one year. So perhaps the mortality was uncommonly light. As I said, there’s more wobbliness than when a tighter multi-year average is used. But again, the differential is so great that it’s highly unlikely that this doesn’t represent a vast undercount of the people who died as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, either as a direct result of the disease or because of compromised access to health care.

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