The number of people in the US who died from the coronavirus in March through May was likely about 28 percent higher than the official count due in part to state reporting discrepancies, according to a new study.
The number of deaths from any cause tallied by the National Center for Health Statistics during those three months was 781,000 — 122,300, or almost 19 percent, higher than the historical average for the period, according to the study conducted by Yale University and published in JAMA Internal Medicine.
During the same stretch, the number of deaths officially listed as due to COVID-19 was 95,235, or 28 percent less than that excess number, Reuters reported.
Many early nursing home deaths or those attributed to pneumonia rather than the coronavirus may have contributed to an undercount, media reports have suggested.
“Determining the cause of death on a death certificate is not an exact science,” said Daniel Weinberger, an epidemiologist at the Yale School of Public Health and lead author of the study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health and private foundations.
“It is possible that someone who had COVID-19 and that triggered pneumonia might have pneumonia listed as the cause of death. Whereas another jurisdiction might have COVID as the cause,” he added. “The coding for what a person died from can vary a lot from person to person and jurisdiction to jurisdiction.”
The report comes as the pandemic continues to spread across the US, where new cases grew by 5 percent or more in at least 40 states, including Arizona, Texas, Florida and Oklahoma as of Monday, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
At least 127,425 have died of the contagion across the country, according to data from Johns Hopkins.
The researchers said the gap between the reported COVID-19 deaths and the excess deaths varied by states.
“The gap between the official COVID-19 tally and the excess deaths has been shrinking over time and has nearly disappeared in some places, like New York City,” Weinberger said, according to Fox News.
Medical staff stand over a deceased patient in the United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, Texas.Getty Images
“How reliably the official tolls capture the full burden of excess deaths still varies considerably between states,” he added.
In the Big Apple, the expected number deaths based on statistics from previous years would be 13,000 from March 1 to May 30 — but this time, the number of fatalities recorded was 38,170, the news outlet reported.
“Some states had good concordance between the number of reported coronavirus deaths and the total number. Washington state and Minnesota has almost no gap, but in South Carolina and Texas there is a considerable difference,” Weinberger said.
Reporting discrepancies have decreased considerably recently as diagnostic testing became more available, he said, adding that “things are much better now than they were in March.”