Study Estimates A Much Higher COVID-19 Death Rate Than Reported

Instead of the previously reported 580,000 deaths in the U.S., the exact number seems closer to 900,000 in total.
Fabienne Lang
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A new study estimates that the death rate caused by COVID-19 is much higher than was previously anticipated or reported. 

Instead of the recorded 3.25 million deaths caused by COVID-19 that the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Research Center shares on its platform, researchers at the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) estimate this number to be closer to seven million.

And instead of the 580,000 deaths reported in the U.S., the IHME study believes this number to be closer to 900,000 in total. 

The IHME team reached these figures by looking at excess mortality from March 2020 through to May 2021, compared them with numbers from a regular year, and adjusted them to include other pandemic-related issues. In the end, the team used an estimation of total mortality caused by COVID-19.

The importance of these estimated death rate figures is paramount, as it helps to model the transmission dynamics of the virus, and to make better forecasts. It also helps to understand the drivers of other epidemics in other countries.

Study Estimates A Much Higher COVID-19 Death Rate Than Reported
Total COVID-19 death rate per country. Source: IHME

There are a number of challenges that crop up when it comes to accurately keeping track and recording cases, and deaths caused by a virus. The way countries monitor and track figures differs from nation to nation, so it's hard to get an all-round perspective. 

In the case of COVID-19, many countries at the start of the pandemic didn't record the deaths caused by the virus in older people, especially those living in assisted care homes, for the first few months of the breakout. 

Testing for the virus varies from country to country, too, so keeping tabs on these exact numbers is tricky. 

These are just a couple of examples of how numbers may not be completely accurate, hence the IHME team's focus on estimating true figures. 

Ultimately, the team concluded that by 3 May, 2021, the cumulative total death rate caused by COVID-19 globally was 89.5 per 100,000. It recorded that Vietnam has the lowest total COVID-19 death rate with 0.1 per 100,000, whereas 12 countries including Russia, Germany, the U.K. where the variant could be 62 percent deadlier, and more, have total COVID-19 death rates over 300 per 100,000.

Keeping a close eye on death rates will ultimately assist in the fight against COVID-19, and future epidemics.