The US death toll from the coronavirus is a grim one, with the CDC and Johns Hopkins putting their most recent figures at 561,594 and 580,120, respectively. The global number of deaths, per Johns Hopkins, comes in at almost 3.3 million as of Friday. But a sobering new report out of the University of Washington paints a much worse picture, reports Stat News: Researchers out of the school's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation say their own analysis shows the worldwide death toll to be 6.9 million, more than double that of official reports—and all "caused directly by the SARS-CoV-2 virus." In the US, per the scientists' analysis, more than 905,000 people have perished from COVID, which NPR notes is about 57% more than the official tally. The researchers looked at excess mortality from March 2020 through Monday, comparing it with expected deaths in a nonpandemic year, with tweaks to adjust for other factors.
This means we've already blown past the number of American deaths caused by the 1918 Spanish flu—estimated to be around 675,000 people—and are on pace to rival the global number for that pandemic (said to be around 50 million) by the time this one is over, "given what's unfolding in India right now" and "our expectation of continued deaths," says IHME Director Christopher Murray. The researchers say the discrepancy in the numbers is because of undercounts in many countries—especially ones such as Russia, India, and Mexico—due to the challenges of tracking the illness and testing for it. Dr. Steven Woolf, who led a study last year out of Virginia Commonwealth University, says his team found that actual excess US deaths similarly exceeded reported ones, but he's not so sure they can all be attributed to COVID. "There are a lot of assumptions and educated guesses built into their model," he tells NPR regarding the new research. (Read more coronavirus stories.)