Monday, May 17, 2021

study shows 7 to 13 million people have died of covid19

A lot of people have been waiting for the inevitable studies showing the true death count for the current viral scourge -- knowing that it will be much higher than the official figures.

We know that because each of the studies that have been conducted after past pandemics have notched up the death count. After the swine flu of 2009-10, studies showed a vast undercount of deaths attributed to that cousin virus of SARS-CoV-2. In some cases, the death count was off by a factor of 15.

The first study has now been released -- even though the epidemic is far from over. The current issue of The Economist includes a study compiled from available data that concludes, as scientists have suspected, that deaths attributable to Covid19 are far higher than the officially-reported 3.4 million. The actual figure is in the range of 7 to 13 million.

Mexico's numbers are 445,690 excess deaths compared with 201,600 officially-reported deaths. 

I suggest that you take a look at the study and the accompanying Excess Death Tracker that breaks the data into easily-understood categories.

The variance between the "official" number and the numbers in the study has a number of causes. Not all nations have a standard system for reporting deaths -- or births, for that matter. And the definitions used in in ne country may not be used in another. "Cause of death" is a very slippery medical concept.

Even countries with sophisticated reporting systems have experienced problems in the midst of the epidemic. And, of course, there are countries who have simply lied about their numbers.

To avoid the reporting issues and the inherent dangers in a straight "excess deaths" comparison, the researchers collected data on 121 indicators for more than 200 countries and then used gradient boosting to find relationships between these indicators and data on excess deaths. The finished model used those relationships to provide estimates of excess deaths for countries where no data was available.

The result was a death toll of 7 to 13 million attributable to Covid19. But the increased count was not spread equally around the world. (The official death count for each region is in parentheses.) 
  • Latin America and the Caribbean -- 1.5 to 1.8 million excess deaths (0.6 million)
  • Africa -- 0 to 2.1 million excess deaths (0.1 million)
  • Europe -- 1.5 to 1.6 million excess deaths (0.1 million)
  • America and Canada -- 0.6 to 0.7 million excess deaths (0.6 million)
  • Oceania -- 12,000 to 13,000 excess deaths (1,218)
My recommendation is to read the published summary of the study in The Economist. You can find it by clicking either of the two "study" links in the text above.

The death toll, of course, is not over. Virologists have been predicting that until the world is fully-vaccinated (at the current rate, in 2024 or 2025), the virus and its variants will long be with us. And there will be more studies to follow.

I just returned from a week in Oregon. While I was there, the CDC announced that masks would no longer be required indoors and outdoors in The States. The president even did his impression of Gypsy Rose Lee.

Then, in true bureaucratic style came the exceptions. With the confusion, all of the people I encountered in Bend stayed masked.

That made my return to Mexico that much more jarring. Once I left the airport, seeing a masked face was about as rare as seeing the pink panther shopping at Oxxo.

And that made me feel good. We are each going to get through this epidemic in our own way. We do not need to waste our time worrying when life offers far too many pleasures.  

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