28K Deaths Show Virus Toll Is Surely Undercounted

'New York Times' analyzes mortality data around the world
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 21, 2020 12:56 PM CDT
28K Deaths Show Virus Toll Is Surely Undercounted
A rabbi conducts a burial service for someone presumed to have died from the coronavirus at the Hebrew Free Burial Association's cemetery in Staten Island, NY.   (AP Photo/David Goldman)

The total number of confirmed deaths around the world from the coronavirus has gone above 171,000. But an analysis by the New York Times suggests the real figure is closer to 200,000. The newspaper looked at mortality data in 11 countries since the outbreak began and counted 28,000 "missing" deaths—unattributed to COVID-19—in that span. For the US, the newspaper looked only at New York City. What the newspaper found is that many more people died around the world than typically would from March 9 through April 12. In New York City, for example, there were 17,200 such "excess deaths." The city's death toll from COVID-19 in that span was 13,240, leaving about 4,000 unexplained extra deaths. These weren't all necessarily caused by the coronavirus, of course, but similar excesses appeared all over.

Spain has the most with 7,300, followed by England and Wales at 6,300, and France at 5,100. The figures for Jakarta, Indonesia, however, may illustrate what's happening in the most stark terms. In March, Jakarta reported only 84 coronavirus deaths. However, about 1,000 more people than normal were buried in Jakarta cemeteries that month, suggesting that government officials were drastically underreporting the virus's toll. "At this stage, it's a partial snapshot," Patrick Gerland, a UN demographer tells the Times. "It's one view of the problem that reflects that most acute side of the situation, primarily through the hospital-based system." He adds that a "much clearer picture" should emerge of the COVID-19 toll in the coming months, perhaps as nations adjust figures retroactively. See the Times' full report and stats. (Read more coronavirus stories.)

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