Covid-19 Deaths: How Much Are They Understated?


Based on dramatic changes in overall death counts we can estimate Covid-19 death undercounts.

The Financial Times reports the Global Coronavirus Death Toll Could be 60% Higher Than Reported.

Normally the FT is behind a paywall. This one is a "free" read.

Mortality statistics show 122,000 deaths in excess of normal levels across these locations, considerably higher than the 77,000 official Covid-19 deaths reported for the same places and time periods.

To calculate excess deaths, the FT has compared deaths from all causes in the weeks of a location’s outbreak in March and April 2020 to the average for the same period between 2015 and 2019. The total of 122,000 amounts to a 50 per cent rise in overall mortality relative to the historical average for the locations studied.  

Overall Death Increase

  • 60% Belgium
  • 51% Spain
  • 42% Netherlands
  • 34% France
  • 299% New York City 
  • 155% Italy Lombardy Region 
  • 75% Stockholm Sweden
  • 1,400% Jakarta Indonesia

The FT did not calculate excess deaths for the US, just New York City.

U.S. Coronavirus Death Toll Is Far Higher Than Reported, C.D.C. Data Suggests

Covid-19 Excess Deaths 2020-04-28

In what I believe to be a copycat idea, the New York Times reports U.S. Coronavirus Death Toll Is Far Higher Than Reported, C.D.C. Data Suggests.

Total deaths in seven states that have been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic are nearly 50 percent higher than normal for the five weeks from March 8 through April 11, according to new death statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is 9,000 more deaths than were reported as of April 11 in official counts of deaths from the coronavirus.

Not Like the Flu, Not Like Car Crashes, Not Like... 

We can also take a pretty good stab at it from the Atlantis article Not Like the Flu, Not Like Car Crashes, Not Like... 

I discussed the article on April 21, in Covid-19 Deaths In Context and the Absurdity of Flu Comparisons.

One person commented "Egad, man. That first chart is beyond bogus. The COVID (red line) is clearly cumulative, while the other lines are showing per day on a day to day basis."

Reality: It is deaths PER week - NOT cumulative . 

Another person accused me of being a socialist, clearly not understanding the word.

A third said "Perhaps economics bloggers should stick to what they know, and not take a Peter Navarro analysis. Missing in any of this bombastic "analysis" is any discussion of the demographics of fatalities."

Clearly it is far too difficult for people to click on the Atlantis article and see what it has to say, then refute the case as laid out. These people are too lazy to click on a link. while making absurd assumptions about the data that was presented.

Here is a link to the Monday April 27 version of the chart. I added the box in blue which I believe to be the excess death counts PER WEEK, PER MILLION.

Yes, older people are more at risk. But Judging from some reader comments, we should just say that we don't give damn because these people would have died anyway, so who cares?

The facts are, hospitals were not prepared those excess cases, nor were mortuaries.

New York Forced to Send Bodies Out of State for Cremation

In case you missed it, please consider New York Forced to Send Bodies Out of State for Cremation

Trump's Lysol Moment

Ignorance abounds and Trump helped spread it with a Lysol Moment: His Most Ridiculous Comment Ever.

Two people in Georgia drank disinfectants and hotlines received calls asking how to drink Lysol safely.

Open Up Society 

Meanwhile, two doctors in California using bogus analysis want to open up the US. I commented Fully Open Up Society Now? Really?

Without a doubt, we need top open up the US. 

The focus ought to be opening things up safely. But we do not have enough tests yet.The US lags other nations badly on a per capita basis.


Comments (109)
No. 1-20

Just like in China if the victims weren't tested the deaths may not get recorded as Covid-19 related. Whether they go to the hospital depends a great deal on access to health care.


And still, the USA, shining beacon of brilliance and freedom, is lagging way behind in testing. I got a test a couple days ago... the swab was hard to break off, and the nurse offered that it was made locally on a 3D printer. Since the slogan is now Keep America Great, this must be what Great is... a country that after 2 months can't mass produce or hire someone to mass produce a 2 gram piece of plastic.

One of two things is possible: Either there is nobody left in this country with two brain cells to rub together, or there has been a catastrophic failure in leadership.

Heck, maybe it's both.


Hey Mish - there is an error in your article title. I think you meant it to read "overstated" not "understated".


Just did a quick calculation: 545 newly unemployed for each covid death. The unemployed # should probably be much higher if it were to account for all of the independent contractors and the like who really have no way to be counted. I think that we should look at a Plan B that does a good job of protecting the vulnerable while allowing most of those 30 million new unemployed to get back to work. This is not a binary yes/no on whether something should be done. But that something does not necessarily need to put so many people out of work. And school. And everything else.


92% of people don't even get hospitalized when they get it. While I agree the death rate is higher I think when you have > 99% people surviving a virus, this isn't reason to leave everything shutdown anymore. Even California has plans to open things up in May and June. I see the virus on the decline in the summer and remdesivir+ being available to anyone who tests positive. We prevented catastrophe by shutting things down but now there are a tsunami of patients awaiting surgeries and other treatments for illnesses unrelated to Covid-19. Those people are going to get sicker if they don't get treated. Covid-19 can be blamed for deaths unrelated to getting the virus for some people too but because the system couldn't handle the influx. Now is the time to start getting America healthy again.

Tony Bennett
Tony Bennett

Now that the 'get the country open again' train leaving the station ... anyone else have the nagging sense that there will "pressure" from TPTB to classify (as many as possible) deaths due to something other than covid?


Zero Hedge: "UK Study Shows 18,000 Extra Cancer Deaths Possible Within A Year Due To COVID-19 Focus"


I am a little confused.

Why exactly do we have to assume all of the alleged "excess" deaths were caused by Covid-19?


"The bottom line is this; sickness and death due to the government response to this manufactured pandemic will be multiple times greater than the death toll due to this coronavirus. But it is much worse than that, because the deaths due to this response will continue to rise for years to come, as people struggle to stay afloat in a country whose economy has been destroyed. Early and unnecessary death, suicide, family abuse, violence, despair, starvation, and loneliness will continue to reek havoc on Americans, causing any number of continuing health problems and death."


Mish, again, sorry but you're miles off the mark

Why isn't Sweden in your number? They have ZERO non-COVID excess deaths

This also strongly suggests that other countries are having excess deaths from their locked-down terrified population not going to the ER with their heart attacks and strokes

My challenge to you, why does Sweden have zero non-COVID excess deaths?


That’s one of the problems with having a classical education, you think you know it all. We’re not talking about population numbers or cancer but of something new.

You know of course that statistics can be manipulated.

“one of the shortcomings of statistics is that they do not bear on their face the label of their quality.”


We are previewing one of the debates of the election.

One side (guess who) will say they had the lowest deaths eva' from any pandemic ever.

The other side will say there are 240,000 confirmed deaths (based on our current trajectory), plus an add of approximately 30 to 50%.

And the truth of the matter (if we're still allowed actual numbers by that time) that there will have been too many.

The "greatest generation" will walk in formation again, this time to the crematories.


Here is a rough analysis of NYC COVID-19 fatalities by age and by comorbidity. Fauci should be fired immediately.

Using the NYC fatality data by age and comorbidity, you can see that it is mostly older folks with comorbidities dying.

Using the recent NYC serum antibody data as a basis for determining total people infected, and the age demographic NYC data, I calculated the fatality rate for age group. Fatality rate without a comorbidity is very low. Surprisingly, even in the 75 and up age group, fatalities without a comorbidity were very, very low.

I had to use averaging for the 18-44 age group, as the serum antibody data further breaks up these age categories more finely than does the fatality data.

Fatality rates for those irrespective of comorbidity:

18-44 – 0.07%
45-64 – 0.82%
65-74 – 3.4%
75 – 7.7%

Fatality rates for those without known comorbidities:

18-44 – 0.006%
45-64 – 0.03%
65-74 – 0.05%
75 – 0.06%

Ergo, the current lockdown policy is dumbheaded.

As with the 2008 financial crisis, there will be increased suicides. Already there is reported increased spouse and child abuse. Medical care is being postponed. People’s lives ruined. When we need to isolate the elderly with comorbidities, afterall.

Dopey NJ governor, failing to heed WA state’s experience, expresses outrage at nursing home deaths. Cuomo, failing to learn from the 2017-2018 flu epidemic’s overwhelming NYC hospitals, blames the Orange Man,

Fauci has this data. He is an imbecile.


Everybody wants to talk about fatalities, but no one wants to talk about the permanent damage to lungs and organs of even a minor case. Sure you may survive, but will your health ever be the same?

purple squish
purple squish

Hi Mish, great post. I've been curious about this topic for a bit and it's good to see someone trying to actually put numbers on it. As to where some of those non-COVID excess deaths are coming from, I think that deaths by heart disease, cancer and especially suicides will all show dramatic increases over this time as well. The suicide bit (10th leading cause of death for 2017, the last year with full accounting) hardly needs elaboration, but for cancer and heart disease I have a couple of anecdotes for why those will go up too. My dad is an oncologist and he has been working 3 days a week because patients aren't coming into the office for treatment if they think they can manage without it for a little bit longer. My brother is a primary care physician, and he had a patient who didn't want to go to the ER die of a probably treatable aneurysm last week. I work for a company that makes implantable cardiac devices/pacemakers, and we're seeing a massive decrease in volume - only the patients in the most dire of circumstances are getting hardware put in. For all three of these, some of these might be showing up already but we should expect a big surge in mortality down the road, unless people think that 100% of the care that isn't happening now was unnecessary in the first place. In some ways, this will be a morbid way to evaluate how much the health care system was actually doing for people with heart disease/cancer/COPD/etc.. Sad irony is that the people who are dying from fear of getting COVID are the same group that would be most likely to die if they got it, due to how it disproportionately affects those with underlying conditions. So, given all that, I think it looks like lockdowns or not, there will be a large pile of corpses, but the choice we get to make is whether the economic wreckage takes 4 years or 20 years to undo.


Overstated deaths from Covid19?

You would have to be a moron to believe that!

Probably the same people who are pro- conspiracy, anti-science, anti-reality, the earth is flat, vaccines cause autism, and Trump supporters.

Oh wait. I was right. Look at who believes cases are overstated!


Those Trumpeters who continually bring up the supposedly "superior results" that Sweden has achieved with its COVID-19 strategy have been corrected by, or will need to correct, their orange idol ...

Donald J. Trump ✔

Despite reports to the contrary, Sweden is paying heavily for its decision not to lockdown. As of today, 2462 people have died there, a much higher number than the neighboring countries of Norway (207), Finland (206) or Denmark (443). The United States made the correct decision!


Well, good for the FT and NYT for publishing those relative death numbers. Death numbers relative to other years remove at least one big unknown. And focus on the real bottom line.

Unfortunately, they don't mean much without knowing the variance of such numbers. For example, if Numastan has 20% more deaths than some average, is that 20% different from any other year's percentage?

Beggars can't be choosers, but it would have been nice to see all the numbers the FT and NYT computed, rather than their editorial subset. And links to their source data is always nice. But, for the price? Cool.

For those wanting to look in to possible source data, the CDC has death numbers for the USA (2014-2020) at:


Thanks Mish, I have been following this issue and great to see your charts and comments on the issue of understated deaths


thanks, those numbers are hard to argue against. If we assume that 25% of new yorkers have already been infected based on antibody testing then we can say that this virus has run one-quarter of the way through. The speed of it explains the huge increase in march-april deaths. Unfortunately it is unstoppable imo. We did the right thing by lockdown but now its time to open up since were all gonna get it over the next 12 months. Lethality rate of .1% to .5% is unavoidable and 500k deaths is probably unavoidable sooner (open up) or later (Lockdown). Herd immunity is the only solution. Meanwhile economically were looking at the loss if maybe 10% of all businesses. The effects of that will cascade into all sectors. our homeless problem is about to get MUCH worse. Financially the economic damage is going to be worse than anyone can imagine and will exponentially get worse the longer we lockdown. 500K deaths is bad but 10M economically devastated is terrible. We cannot prevent the first but can do something about limiting the 2nd. Open up.

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