COVID-19 deaths are being underreported, says GlobalData

COVID-19 deaths are most likely being underreported in the US, according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Excess deaths measure the difference between observed number of deaths and expected number of deaths. GlobalData calculates that there have been approximately 47,000 to 52,000 excess deaths since February 2, 2020. The causes of these excess deaths may include additional unreported COVID-19 cases. Excess deaths data can be used been used as a truer measure of the impact and severity of a disease.

Nanthida Nanthavong, MPH, Epidemiologist at GlobalData, comments: “For ‘all causes’ of excess deaths, the estimated number ranged from 68,774 cases to 92,742 cases. For ‘all causes excluding COVID-19,’ the estimated number of excess deaths ranged from 21,462 cases to 40,097 cases.

“Excess deaths reported are based on observed number of deaths relative to two different thresholds. The lower value of excess deaths was generated by comparing observed counts to the upper bound of a 95% confidence interval. Specifically, a model was used to generate a set of expected values for each jurisdiction in the US. The higher value of estimated excess deaths was generated by comparing observed counts to the average expected number of deaths.”

These data may have inaccuracies due to limitations in data collection and reporting. Limitations in the early testing for the disease may have caused possible undercounts of COVID-19 deaths. It is also possible that the excess deaths can be indirectly related to other problems caused by the pandemic. These problems include overburdening of the healthcare system and a lack of access to care, among others.

Nanthavong concludes: “The consequence of underreporting cases and deaths can have an effect on public policy and the outcome of the pandemic.”

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