NY Times: The global coronavirus death toll is 28,000 higher than reported

Actually, the 28,000 figure is based on data from just 11 countries so the actual global figure must be much higher. The idea here is the same thing I wrote about several weeks ago with regard to Italy. Many countries reporting coronavirus deaths are primarily relying on numbers gathered from hospitals. Those who die at home without a test for the virus aren’t being counted in many cases. But you can judge how many deaths there are by comparing the current numbers with historical averages. When you do, you find that there are a lot more unattributed deaths than normal this spring:

In the last month, far more people died in these countries than in previous years, The New York Times found. The totals include deaths from Covid-19 as well as those from other causes, likely including people who could not be treated as hospitals became overwhelmed.

These numbers undermine the notion that many people who have died from the virus may soon have died anyway. In Paris, more than twice the usual number of people have died each day, far more than the peak of a bad flu season. In New York City, the number is now four times the normal amount.

Of course, mortality data in the middle of a pandemic is not perfect. The disparities between the official death counts and the total rise in deaths most likely reflect limited testing for the virus, rather than intentional undercounting. Officially, about 165,000 people have died worldwide of the coronavirus as of Tuesday.

But the total death numbers offer a more complete portrait of the pandemic, experts say, especially because most countries report only those Covid-19 deaths that occur in hospitals.

Notice that the dates for each of these estimates vary. Some are for March and some continue as recently as April 18. So the reported deaths won’t match the current number in any case. For instance the official number of deaths in the Netherlands is 3,916 as of today, April 21.

The article also includes graphs for each individual country. Here’s the one for Spain:

The Times doesn’t explain why it selected the particular countries it did but the answer appears to be the availability of data. Most countries don’t publish total death figures in a timely manner but that is changing because of the virus.

Of course what I’d like to see is this kind of estimate for China. But even if you could get the historical data for comparison, China seemed to be doing its best to keep quiet the number of deaths from all causes in Wuhan.

At some point, maybe several months from now, we should have enough data to put together a more accurate picture of the global death toll. It will be interesting to see if the death toll in countries like China, Iran and Russia wind up appearing miraculous compared to the rest of the world.

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