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US data show notable increase in deaths in 2020 over same period during prior years

The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is publishing data that is beginning to show what many describe as the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the country’s mortality rate.

While there has been debate over accuracy in recording the cause of death when the deceased has tested positive for COVID-19, what remains consistent is reporting of deaths regardless of cause.

Excess deaths are typically defined as the difference between the observed numbers of deaths in specific time periods and expected numbers of deaths in the same time periods.

National Center of Health Statistics

The following dashboard is published by the NCHS on the CDC website and is currently indicating “excessive deaths” in the United States since the week of March 28th. Several weeks of excessive deaths during the 2017-2018 flu season during which many states were hit hard are also visible.

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The CDC notes data used are incomplete because of the lag in time between when death occur and when the death certificate is completed, submitted to National Center for Health Statistics and processed for reporting purposes. This delay can range from 1 to 8 weeks or more, depending on the jurisdiction and cause of death according to the CDC. As a result, updates can be expected to cause the weekly counts to increase rather than decrease.

The excessive deaths for Washington State during 2020 appear in a less dramatic fashion than the United States on the dashboard (able to be viewed by changing the selected jurisdiction in the box above the graph).

The estimates presented may be an early indication of excess mortality related to COVID-19, but should be interpreted with caution, until confirmed by other data sources such as state or local health departments.

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National Center of Health Statistics

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