Death Certificates Suggest Covid-19 Deaths Way Undercounted

Mish

Analysis of Michigan death certificates shows significant undercounting of coronavirus cases. Michigan is not unique.

Please consider Coronavirus Deaths Were Likely Missed in Michigan

An exclusive Wall Street Journal analysis of death certificates indicates that Michigan could have undercounted hundreds of fatalities connected to Covid-19 during a period in March and April when deaths had surged above normal levels.

In Macomb County, made up of Detroit-area suburbs, Medical Examiner Daniel Spitz said 842 overall deaths were reported to his office in April this year, up about 370 from April last year.

“These increases in numbers were not because we had a lot of homicides, a lot of suicides, a lot of drug overdoses,” Dr. Spitz said. “What’s the difference between April ’19 and April ’20? Covid-19 is the obvious choice.”

Public-health experts say it is common to undercount deaths from new maladies, and that testing deficits made it particularly easy to miss deaths from people infected by the coronavirus.

Deaths in three counties in that area were up 80% in the five-week period, compared with recent averages. But about a third of certificates from that increase—more than 900 cases—don’t list Covid-19 as an underlying or related cause of death.

Michigan Covid-19 Deaths by County

Michigan Covid-19 Deaths by County

More than 13,000 people died in the state from March 15 through April 18, compared with an average of about 9,300 deaths yearly during the same five-week period over the previous six years, according to the state’s death-certificate data.

Undercounts Beyond Dispute 

Deaths caused by Covid-19 are significantly undercounted. Put a probability of that at about 99% or higher.

Yet, this post and every similar post of this nature is guaranteed to spawn inane comments on how people did not die from Covid-19 but rather with Covid-19.

Those making such claims may as well attribute every death due to failure to keep breathing.

Lockdown Overkill

There is reasonable debate regarding whether the lockdowns went too far, but we do not know what would have happened had there not been lockdowns.

Covid-19 Deaths Through May 20

Covid-19 Cases Through May 20

Through May 20, there have been 94,936 US deaths attributed to Covid-19. 

In addition, there is a significant but unknown number of deaths that should have been attributed to Covid-19 but weren't.

What we do not know is how many more would have died had there not been lockdowns. 

Many of those those arguing against the lockdowns claim that social distancing does not work. Regard anyone making such a claim as a crackpot. 

For the rest, I wonder how many additional deaths it would have taken to convince you the lockdowns were advisable?

100,000? 200,000? 1,000,000? Everyone on the planet? 

Mish

Comments (172)
No. 1-40
The Hood
The Hood

Balderdash. With all the incentives from the government to the medical community to claim anything that doesn't move a Corona victim I'd say it is over counted, which is just as valid as this blurb and the article it is based upon.

The Hood
The Hood

Case in point. 630,973 deaths in USA from January 1 to April 30th 2018 during the 2017/18 flu pandemic, and 610,693 deaths from January 1 to April 20th 2020 during the Covid 19 pandemic. I can used hand selected data to prove my point to, but I use more than one or two weeks to frame the argument because I want to show some validity, not the old yellow journalism trick of statistics lie and liars use statistics.

Isaiah217
Isaiah217

If the number of deaths that should have been counted is unknown, how do you know it’s significant

Jojo
Jojo

Mish isn't going to give up on trying to convince everyone that deaths are under-counted when the reality is that deaths are likely over-counted! This will become evident once the manufactured virus crisis passes and all CV19 notated deaths are reviewed. At that point, deaths will be taken out of the CV19 column and apportioned to other columns. The constant MSM fear flaming is making people irrational.

Deaths vs. Economic Pain: Cable News' Imbalanced Picture
ANALYSIS
By Kalev Leetaru
May 20, 2020

njbr
njbr

The under-count is a phenomena that has been verified in the entire world.

But, but....much hand-waving ensures without accompanying facts.

It's true, number of excess deaths around the world typically runs up to 50%

If 10,000 deaths confirmed, actual number of EXCESS deaths is 15,000.

Did those extra 5,000 people, above and beyond normal deaths plus CV deaths, die specifically from CV or because of health condition aggravated by CV, or lack of access to health care facilities because of the pandemic, who knows.

But more people than reported as dying from CV are dying.

But believe what you want, it doesn't matter to the virus.

Besides, it'll go away by itself in a couple of days...

aqualech
aqualech

I'll go with a million. A little less than 1%. The lockdowns and related $Trillion$ of additional debt might be the end of us and certainly are ushering in a new totalitarian regime. But this is not binary. The lockdowns slowed some things down re transmission, but were not 100% effective. Also, voluntary lockdown might have been enough. BTW, there is no way that we would have ever gotten to 1 million w/o the lockdowns.

LawrenceBird
LawrenceBird

Mish - too much focus on deaths. How many have been hospitalized? How many more would have been (if even possible). Almost half were not 'old'. Many of those who did not die in the hospital remain in poor shape even weeks after discharge. We have no idea what (if any) short/long term damage was done to those who were positive but deemed not sick enough to be hospitalized.

davebarnes2
davebarnes2

This is all premature.
I am waiting for the large meta data studies that will be published in 5 years.
We can make informed decisions then.

RonJ
RonJ

Here is one under count.

Karl Denninger: "This is further supported by the fact that both RA and Lupus patients, who take HCQ on a routine maintenance (long-term) basis and have for years, are not represented in Covid-19 cases at anywhere near their representation in the population. Further, since both of these diseases are serious autoimmune disorders and we know immune disorders are a risk factor for death by Covid-19 these individuals should by dying at a great accelerated rate -- but they are not."

michiganmoon
michiganmoon

Mish, I am not saying that you are wrong, but isn't it basically a scientific fact that (A) stress causes many health problems and deaths, particularly heart issues as one example and (B) death rates go up dramatically during times of mass unemployment from things like stress, suicide, etc...

The fact that deaths are now up doesn't mean that Covid-19 directly killed all of the difference from past years. Stress is eating away at people too. Money worries, job worries, pandemic worries, arguments with kids refusing to do any school work during the closure, etc - ALL stress.

I had to tell my brother to stop texting me or that I would block him, because he continually texted me how America was "cruel," Trump voters are evil, and Europe is so much better, how he will move to Canada if Trump wins again and etc... It stressed me out and made me miserable I had to tell him to STFU as nicely as I could.

Sechel
Sechel

With the exception of the administration its widely acknowledged that Covid-19 deaths are undercounted. We're seeing in nursing home data (sometimes intentionally by state planners) deaths where there was a 2nd factor or a covid-19 test wasn't conducted. We can't know precisely but the spike in death rates compared to previous years makes that a near certainty. Only the Administration in Washington is claiming over-counting

Jdog1
Jdog1

What kills me in this whole argument is the notion that if we had not had forced quarantines, that the unemployment and economic collapse would not have happened. This is ridiculous, people would have still avoided restaurants and bars and stores anyway.. What would have changed would be the infection rate would have been much worse causing and even bigger panic and social breakdown.
We would also have had a legal nightmare as our "victim society" began suing each other over negligence for not taking precautions and shutting down businesses.
Now I hate government probably more than anyone here, but even I have to admit that in this case they did the right thing and shut everything down until we could get a handle on this thing...

Tengen
Tengen

Unless people believe Americans have a special predisposition to Covid deaths, they are certainly undercounted on a global scale. I wouldn't be surprised at all if China had more deaths than every other country combined, and if that's not true I expect they're not off by much.

Other countries aren't counting/testing their slums while others are trying to look strong for political purposes, mostly to propagandize their own people.

Since there is so much lying, we'll have to wait for more clues like China's shocking drop in cell phone users to get a clearer idea of what's going on.

BaronAsh
BaronAsh

Statistics are always tricky beasts, and the ones flying around viz. CV19 are no exception, especially given how some show clear over-counting and others show clear under-counting. I don't believe any of them because I don't believe the source data has consistent enough standards and definitions.

One set of data out of Italy - with the same caveats of course - is telling, imo, namely the percentage of people dying with C19 and also WITHOUT co-morbidities. Now one can argue that without the covid those with one co-morbidity might have made it, I suppose, but that means the word 'morbidity' is being discounted (though again: who gets to define these things in the first place?). But generally speaking, if these numbers are generally correct - as I suspect is the case given the very high average age of those dying the past few months in Italy - it means that the sort of conclusions Mish is pushing are mathematically absurd.

If it is more or less accurate that only 3.9% of those dying of CV have NO co-morbidities, then it is highly unlikely that CV is contributing much more than 10-20% of extra deaths this year, indeed one might argue it has lowered death rates because of reduction of car crashes, workplace accidents, iatrogenic cock-ups in hospitals and clinics and so forth.

Now: if this 3,9% number was more like 20-30%, which is what you would suspect from all the press on this, then Mish would have a much stronger point. But given the virus inability to strike down more than 1 in 25 who are not already very ill, I don't think this qualifies as a pandemic at all, any more than a typical flu which also goes around the world in 80 days infecting tens of millions, killing of about 0.1-2% (1-2,000 per million), which is thus far more than what CV has done.

As to statistics, look at this doozy: yesterday Sweden's death per million count doubled. Of course this has nothing to do with all the press recently praising or vilifying them. Still, that's a huge statistical sea-change. I haven't read a single story noticing this:

Went from 4.46 to 8.71. That sort of leap indicates that the numbers are being tweaked or from very questionable sources or something. I feel that most of the figures being bandied about are no less suspect. But even if they are right, 8.71 deaths per million is under 0.01% (1000), the typical flu level. Basic Math. (Unless I am misinterpreting the 8.71 nr somehow, but if so it's probably 871 not 8,710).

One thing is clear: the lockdown has been an economic disaster and the number of deaths and illnesses doesn't come close to justifying it. It's very hard to admit when you have made a mistake. Trump for sure will never admit it and keeps touting the entirely ridiculous 2,000,000 death figure he was briefed by his corrupt Big Pharma shills using the same study that spooked Boris into the same sort of draconian economy-killing blunder (though he might be trolling every time he does it!). They blew it. And they blew it by listening overmuch to Garbage-In-Garbage-Out spreadsheet models which can tell you anything you want if you know how to tweak them, leave out the right variables, exponentially exaggerate other ones until you get the hockey stick or rocket to moon shape that you want.

numike
numike

Thoughts that the young are not much affected by SARS-CoV-2 look wrong

Tbbone
Tbbone

Mish- I used to really enjoy your columns but you seem to have gone off the deep end. Your analysis and observations used to be spot on, but now it seems like you have a preconceived idea that you are looking for ways to justify rather than using the same logical reasoning you used to apply to economics and politics.

You highlight that deaths from various causes in general have increased and immediately leap to the conclusion that Covid-19 deaths are under-counted. Didn’t you skip a few steps between observation and conclusion. I used to apply statistical methods to improving semiconductor manufacturing processes and if I used that same sloppy reasoning - I would have been out of a job very quickly.

What else has changed since Covid-19 that might account for those extra deaths? How about the lockdowns themselves. It is well know that stress is one of the biggest factors in disease. Think of the additional stress caused by the lockdowns. Suddenly lots of people are out of a job. All the places you used to eat at or shop at are closed or under very tight restrictions. Social time with your friends is eliminated or greatly reduced. your normal routines are severely disrupted. If you live in a nursing home, suddenly the few things you looked forward to (family visits and the daily bingo) are no longer there. My point is that the act of the lockdowns themselves has created a significant amount of stress in every day lives that could very well act as a trigger for increased deaths. Of course I don’t know if that’s true or not and I really have no way to test that theory, but it’s just as valid as leaping to the conclusion that Covid-19 was the direct cause of all those extra deaths.
The article states: “What’s the difference between April ’19 and April ’20?” The lockdowns themselves also seem to be an obvious choice. To me it looks like the lockdown response to Covid-19 might also have played a significant factor in those increased deaths.

Montana33
Montana33

It’s a well documented fact that covid deaths are undercounted everywhere. All valid studies show similar unexplained spikes in flu and pneumonia deaths around the world so it obviously covid. It’s good to hear that the Wall Street Journal is speaking the truth. It’s a conservative source that is super pro-Trump. I don’t think they publish lies, they just color everything Red.

fla56
fla56

Mish honestly please leave medical commenting to the medics(!)

101, there is now abundant evidence from New York to London to Stockholm that late lockdown adds nothing over social distancing

Meantime, no one gets to try and dismiss the ‘die with COVID vs from it’ issue by acknowledging it, it is utterly real

There are far far too many incentives for healthcare officials and government to ignore it

Also the deadly effects of lockdown are real, people are terrified to attend the ER and are dying at home of other diseases, eg heart attacks

We know this as we have seen eg cardiac cath labs numbers in the U.K. drop 40%

This is before the cancer outbreak which is coming which will kill half as many as the official COVID total

Put together with suicides, child poverty and other socioeconomic damage your lockdown will kill as many people again as the official death totals have died, whilst the evidence says it’s saved no one that social distancing wouldn’t have, esp with proper care home policies

fla56
fla56

The honest truth is that Cuomo and other politicians have killed people by sending them from the hospitals with their infections to care homes to die while assuming (wrongly based on the Ferguson idiot) that the disease would sweep thru the young healthy population...

...whilst destroying the jobs and futures of that young healthy population

The plan should always have been open schools, sensible social distancing and aggressive isolation of the sick and frail in care homes

AvgJoe
AvgJoe

I can answer your question of “What we do not know is how many more would have died had there not been lockdowns.” The simple answer is zero. The whole reason for the lockdowns in the first place was to “Flatten the curve”. The concept of flattening the curve is to spread out the people who would need medical care so as to not overload the medical system at a given point in time. In short, we are spreading out the same number of deaths but over a longer time period. If this virus is going to get you, being locked down for 3, 4, 5, 6 or a year will not change that fact that you will die from it eventually. Mother nature always finds a way.
There are only three ways to change the outcome with the Corona Virus:
1)100% lockdown until the virus dies off. That means nobody around the world can EVER leave their homes. That means you can’t go out to buy food. You must be able to self-sustain for the duration. I have heard these figures go anywhere from 4-8 months but nobody can be sure because we just don’t know. But not one person can leave and have any form of contact with another and accidentally pass along the virus to another. The virus will die out. This virus started out with only one host and spread like it did so nobody can leave the house. Lastly, ask yourself how many people will die from accidents etc. because the paramedics can’t leave their homes either or any other type of situation where you need someone else’s help. This is perfectly evident today in that if you need the police or a paramedic they can carry the virus and pass it along and have done so. Absolutely no contact.
2)A vaccine is developed that will keep you immune from COVID-19 (may require booster shots), but everyone must have had this shot or it will still be passed around. This could take years to develop and many more to inoculate the entire world. Think of measles and how long it took to eradicate it. They started in the late 50s and not until 2000 did they finally say that measles was gone from the planet. I am not holding my breath that a vaccine will be available soon and even if so, without a risk of severe complications.
3)let everyone out into the world and let it spread like wildfire. Eventually, just about everyone will get it and become immune. Yes, I understand that immunity may not last long and you can get reinfected etc. The key point is that when herd immunity kicks in it will start to die out and not spread as easily. Yes, still keep working on a vaccine in the meantime. Yes, we must keep those most at risk such as the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions separated and isolated just as we do with the flu today. When you had the flu in the past did you give grandma a big sloppy kiss. No, because she is not as strong and we used common sense. For a couple of months it will be hell but it will be over quickly once immunity kicks in and can’t spread as fast. It will soon become just like the Spanish Virus did in 1919.

dr smock
dr smock

As a medical doctor, there is so much we still need to learn about this virus. The cytokine storm or autoimmune disease that results from Covid-19 is just horrific. A patient can look to be recovering, then all of a sudden their immune system starts to attack their own body, resulting in blood clots in the lung, brain, heart, liver, and all over the body. This virus can live undetected in the spleen, lymph nodes, and bone marrow after the patient has supposedly recovered. Will this virus come back to cause more infection with a cytokine storm in a recovered patient? We just don't know. Personally, and only as a guess, I do not think we are close to seeing this virus die out by herd immunity or whatever. Plus I think the death toll is much higher than reported because of the inaccuracy of the swab test , which is the Polymerase Chain Reaction test or PCR test, and also the antibody test due to the fact they test positive or negative only at certain phases of the disease such that these tests can result in false negatives and also some false positives. Multiple testing would be the way to increase accuracy of the tests.

Webej
Webej

Wrong question. The question is how many life-years you can actually prevent long-term by crushing the curve short-term? And the corollary, how many extra life-years lost over 30 years caused by skidding into the ditch?

CCR
CCR

My father had a stroke and dies three weeks later. Two days before he died he had a heart attack. Both acute...I get it. I would say of stroke, some would argue heart attack. Death Cert said Ischemic Stroke.

If somebody dies from Corona, in most cases they had an underlying issue....not all cases, but most. Death Certs vary, I understand why.

If the nation was drowning in debt before Corona....is Corona causing the death of the nation? I would say it's debt, some would argue otherwise. My guess the death cert will say "natural causes".

Anda
Anda

Not taking part in opinion on this because any argument becomes circular. More tests more fatalities due to virus but lower IFR due to counted background infections for example... there are too many facets to try to include to get an answer that is real to anything. Lockdowns help reduce fatalities in short term, no doubt, but justifying them in broader terms meets arguments that just cannot be equated, the more so because of lack of various information.

In Italy social security thinks undercount

but in the bigger picture it is not an answer but a detail.

The virus is no good, immunity might not be long, no point in catching it, I think most people understand that, and for those who don't that is a choice but just respect others who don't share that opinion if you want them to respect your choice also.

Also serology tests in UK gave 5% infection rate for the population, but 17% in London. Will have to wait for critique on that.

awc13
awc13

could it also be due to people avoiding early treatment of other diseases because they were afraid of going to the doctor or hospital over concerns of catching covid?

Jackula
Jackula

Everybody undercounts, biggest reason is those in power don't want to look bad. Especially China...but the US numbers are low especially early on. This is shaping up to be a rerun of the 2018-19 Spanish flu epidemic where a big later stage wave killed ten times as many as the first wave. I'm afraid we are not testing enough to be able to shut down again before hospitals get overwhelmed. We'll see...the next 6 weeks are critical...

awc13
awc13

unlikely covid deaths are under counted. too much financial incentive to over count

Jojo
Jojo

COVID-19 deaths and pre-existing conditions. What Illinois’ data says about who’s at risk. - Part 2 – Wirepoints
May 14, 2020
Ted Dabrowski and John Klingner

Wirepoints recently analyzed data from Cook County’s Medical Examiner and found that 92 percent of Cook County COVID-19 victims had pre-existing conditions. Those that died had comorbidities including diabetes, obesity, hypertension and heart disease.

Many Americans have pre-existing conditions. Data from the CDC says that 45 percent of people have hypertension. Another 43 percent are obese. And another 10 percent have diabetes.

(Read part 1 of Wirepoints’ look at pre-existing conditions: Wirepoints analysis reveals 92 percent of Cook County COVID-19 victims had pre-existing conditions)

Jojo
Jojo

I love this statement! [lol]

"Shutting down entire states, including vast uninfected rural swaths, is the economic equivalent of burning witches or sacrificing virgins to appease angry viral gods."

Invigilator
Invigilator

Unquestionably under and mis-counting. Keep reminding ourselves that after the Wuhan Military Games in October 2019 a number of athletes returned to their home countries with flu like symptoms. At least 5 to the US. Sweden and France also admit some. Unless you suspect something - how many doctors will waste time and money making any tests to prove or disprove pneumonia and 'winter flu'?

Realist
Realist

Poor Mish.

He is trying to be logical, rational, data dependent, and scientific when discussing the pandemic. And he is running into a wall of conspiracy theories from a number of his readers, who would rather believe nonsense, than science.

This willingness to believe in conspiracy theories is a stunning example of how many weak-minded people there are who:

Can’t think for themselves, and

Have pre-conceived political or religious beliefs that make them susceptible to rejecting science, logic or common sense

Once you identify someone who believes in one conspiracy theory, you have found an individual who is likely to believe in several other conspiracy theories. That is why some people will believe in more than one of the following conspiracy theories:

The earth is only 6000 years old.

Man never landed on the moon.

The earth is flat.

Vaccines cause autism or are part of a mind control plan.

Global warming is a hoax, perpetrated by those who want to control you with a world government, or for a variety of other stupid reasons (to tax you more, deliberately make you poor, etc).

The pandemic is a hoax, (similar to global warming), to control you with vaccines, take away your money and freedom, and a set up a secret world controlling organization of billionaires.

The internet is a wonderful source of information and knowledge, however, it is also a tool that is being used to spread conspiracy theories and misinformation. Sadly, there is a small group of weak-minded people who easily fall prey to conspiracies and misinformation.

That’s what Mish is up against here.

Believing in conspiracies is almost a religion these days. And trying to convince someone their religion is wrong is difficult.

In fact, many of the conspiracy followers will tell you that Science is a conspiracy, and that is why they are anti-science.

We live in interesting times.

krashid
krashid

Check out the total mortality data from CDC

You can download spreadsheets for National and State level data

purple squish
purple squish

Hi Mish, I agree with you that COVID-19 deaths are undercounted - especially for deaths with cause listed as influenza or pneumonia. However I think it's quite possible that those Alzheimer's, CV and diabetes deaths are actually due to Alzheimer's, strokes/embolisms and diabetes rather than COVID. Ask any specialist physician outside of New York or Boston and they will tell you that hospitals are empty right now. So while some people are dying due to the virus there are a large number that are dying due to disruption of the normal care pathways. Mental health is the one I worry about in particular. So what will it take to convince me that the lockdowns were a good idea? I'd like to see what the extra disabilty-adjusted life years lost is by category is when this is all said and done. A COVID death costs society 5-10 DALYs by recent estimates and a drug overdose costs 35. I think it's not controversial that the COVID body count would be higher without social distancing, but to me it's still an open question about whether the lockdowns/shelter in place orders are actually saving lives or merely redistributing the deaths among different categories and people.

Montana33
Montana33

I do see a lot of as you say “crackpots” commenting in your column. President Trump called for these lockdowns and told Georgia they were opening too soon. I agree with President Trump when he said we would have deaths in excess of 100k and all the Republican and Democrat State governors took his advice. REMINDER: WE HAVE TAPE OF PRESIDENT TRUMP WARNING ABOUT DEATH SPIKES AND CALLING FOR IMMEDIATE ACTION. Many Republican voters clearly disagree with President Trump. Most Republican governors would not have shut down if President Trump had not put out the dire warnings Of up to 240k deaths, even with lockdowns. Trump now claims credit for saving many lives as he should. I think Trump made horrible mistakes early on but I give credit where it’s due. He did save a lot of lives by sharing the true count of deaths to come. Do Republicans now attack him because he was correct? He wants openings now. That’s fine. We bent the curve as he told us to. Now we get to see how the opening goes. I hope it goes well for all of us.

Sista42
Sista42

This is certainly the opposite effect in New Jersey and the county I live in. The numbers are the complete opposite as if someone is getting a kickback oŕ something. So many people in the African American community who had preexisting conditions have gone to the hospital for other illnesses and instantly testing positive suddenly positive then dead .

My mother was one of them on April 6th when her lung çancer returned and mastesized to both lungs , in the center, and two areas of the spine as well and in the bone on the right side of her neck. Long before the pandemic outbreak. She had fluid drained from around her lung and was prepping for chemo. Ìn and out the hospital 3 times with oxygen, breathing and fluid issues. No known heart conditions. Well she went over last time for fluid to drain fluid from her lung area, for the second time, not unusual and in 24hŕs she was dead. I was told she had a heart attack and on a ventilator. How, Why, When,What 😳 I was asked when to pull the plug since she did not want resuscitation . Her death certificate said covid 19. How, Why. No fever, no other symptoms but a heart attack just like that


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