Pandemic Paranoia

Pandemic Paranoia

Statistics, facts, and an open dialogue about COVID-19

Information about COVID-19

A Closer Look At US Deaths Due To Covid


According to new data, the U.S. currently ranks first in total COVID-19 cases, new cases per day and deaths. Genevieve Briand, assistant program director of the Applied Economics master’s degree program at Hopkins, critically analyzed the effect of COVID-19 on U.S. deaths using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in her webinar titled “COVID-19 Deaths: A Look at U.S. Data.”

From mid-March to mid-September, U.S. total deaths have reached 1.7 million, of which 200,000, or 12% of total deaths, are COVID-19-related. Instead of looking directly at COVID-19 deaths, Briand focused on total deaths per age group and per cause of death in the U.S. and used this information to shed light on the effects of COVID-19.

She explained that the significance of COVID-19 on U.S. deaths can be fully understood only through comparison to the number of total deaths in the United States.

After retrieving data on the CDC website, Briand compiled a graph representing percentages of total deaths per age category from early February to early September, which includes the period from before COVID-19 was detected in the U.S. to after infection rates soared.

Surprisingly, the deaths of older people stayed the same before and after COVID-19. Since COVID-19 mainly affects the elderly, experts expected an increase in the percentage of deaths in older age groups. However, this increase is not seen from the CDC data. In fact, the percentages of deaths among all age groups remain relatively the same.

“The reason we have a higher number of reported COVID-19 deaths among older individuals than younger individuals is simply because every day in the U.S. older individuals die in higher numbers than younger individuals,” Briand said.

Briand also noted that 50,000 to 70,000 deaths are seen both before and after COVID-19, indicating that this number of deaths was normal long before COVID-19 emerged. Therefore, according to Briand, not only has COVID-19 had no effect on the percentage of deaths of older people, but it has also not increased the total number of deaths.

These data analyses suggest that in contrast to most people’s assumptions, the number of deaths by COVID-19 is not alarming. In fact, it has relatively no effect on deaths in the United States.

This comes as a shock to many people. How is it that the data lie so far from our perception?

To answer that question, Briand shifted her focus to the deaths per causes ranging from 2014 to 2020. There is a sudden increase in deaths in 2020 due to COVID-19. This is no surprise because COVID-19 emerged in the U.S. in early 2020, and thus COVID-19-related deaths increased drastically afterward.

Analysis of deaths per cause in 2018 revealed that the pattern of seasonal increase in the total number of deaths is a result of the rise in deaths by all causes, with the top three being heart disease, respiratory diseases, influenza and pneumonia.

“This is true every year. Every year in the U.S. when we observe the seasonal ups and downs, we have an increase of deaths due to all causes,” Briand pointed out.

When Briand looked at the 2020 data during that seasonal period, COVID-19-related deaths exceeded deaths from heart diseases. This was highly unusual since heart disease has always prevailed as the leading cause of deaths. However, when taking a closer look at the death numbers, she noted something strange. As Briand compared the number of deaths per cause during that period in 2020 to 2018, she noticed that instead of the expected drastic increase across all causes, there was a significant decrease in deaths due to heart disease. Even more surprising, as seen in the graph below, this sudden decline in deaths is observed for all other causes.

This trend is completely contrary to the pattern observed in all previous years. Interestingly, as depicted in the table below, the total decrease in deaths by other causes almost exactly equals the increase in deaths by COVID-19. This suggests, according to Briand, that the COVID-19 death toll is misleading. Briand believes that deaths due to heart diseases, respiratory diseases, influenza and pneumonia may instead be recategorized as being due to COVID-19.

The CDC classified all deaths that are related to COVID-19 simply as COVID-19 deaths. Even patients dying from other underlying diseases but are infected with COVID-19 count as COVID-19 deaths. This is likely the main explanation as to why COVID-19 deaths drastically increased while deaths by all other diseases experienced a significant decrease.

“All of this points to no evidence that COVID-19 created any excess deaths. Total death numbers are not above normal death numbers. We found no evidence to the contrary,” Briand concluded.

In an interview with The News-Letter, Briand addressed the question of whether COVID-19 deaths can be called misleading since the infection might have exacerbated and even led to deaths by other underlying diseases.

“If [the COVID-19 death toll] was not misleading at all, what we should have observed is an increased number of heart attacks and increased COVID-19 numbers. But a decreased number of heart attacks and all the other death causes doesn’t give us a choice but to point to some misclassification,” Briand replied.

In other words, the effect of COVID-19 on deaths in the U.S. is considered problematic only when it increases the total number of deaths or the true death burden by a significant amount in addition to the expected deaths by other causes. Since the crude number of total deaths by all causes before and after COVID-19 has stayed the same, one can hardly say, in Briand’s view, that COVID-19 deaths are concerning.

Briand also mentioned that more research and data are needed to truly decipher the effect of COVID-19 on deaths in the United States.

Throughout the talk, Briand constantly emphasized that although COVID-19 is a serious national and global problem, she also stressed that society should never lose focus of the bigger picture — death in general.

The death of a loved one, from COVID-19 or from other causes, is always tragic, Briand explained. Each life is equally important and we should be reminded that even during a global pandemic we should not forget about the tragic loss of lives from other causes.

According to Briand, the over-exaggeration of the COVID-19 death number may be due to the constant emphasis on COVID-19-related deaths and the habitual overlooking of deaths by other natural causes in society.

During an interview with The News-Letter after the event, Poorna Dharmasena, a master’s candidate in Applied Economics, expressed his opinion about Briand’s concluding remarks.

“At the end of the day, it’s still a deadly virus. And over-exaggeration or not, to a certain degree, is irrelevant,” Dharmasena said.

When asked whether the public should be informed about this exaggeration in death numbers, Dharmasena stated that people have a right to know the truth. However, COVID-19 should still continuously be treated as a deadly disease to safeguard the vulnerable population.

Putting Numbers Into Context

We live in an era where information has become the most abundant resource in human history. This comes at two costs however. The first is our dependence on authority. An authoritative voice has been a much needed part of society for millennia. For example, the machinist has no authority on corporate finance. But one thing has changed the past two decades – the advent of the internet. This chanced our relationship with information and knowledge. The institutions that disseminated the usual narrative were no longer the only source of expert or niche opinions. And with this came the age of misinformation and the subjective nature of truth became evident.

This leads to the second cost – an overabundance of people who have no way to navigate the vast ocean of narratives and scale. We sometimes forget perspective when dealing with a crisis. But we must understand scale, statistics, and information we just don’t know. If we have no idea what to compare a widespread statistic to, then what use is the statistic?

An example would be the COVID case counts, death counts, and the stories surrounding these numbers. First off, the American death counts are, as of Thanksgiving, 268,513. You might think it’s a lot, because it is. But that’s not the point. If you look up annual deaths from smoking, for example, you’ll find that 480,000 people have died last year, according to the CDC. Double what COVID has done.

But this doesn’t address the issue we’re seeing of misidentification and misinterpretation. Deaths are being added to the total from two distinct classifications – deaths FROM COVID and deaths WITH COVID. This presents a huge issue with verification and statistical modeling. Each year, around 40 to 50 thousand people die from the Flu in the US. But those numbers have dropped off the charts for the 2020 cycle, further obscuring the real data. Our statistical models are being set by illegitimate numbers to justify the current draconian lockdowns.

American Flu Data – WHO Illness Surveillance Network

In 2019 (from Jan. to Dec.), 10 million people around the globe contracted tuberculosis. Of that, 1.4 million died from the disease. To contrast this figure, COVID has infected close to 70 million world wide (from Dec. 2019 to Dec. 2020), with a fatality of 1.5 million people.

This means TB’s fatality ratio is 0.14%, while COVID sits at 0.02143%. No where close to TB’s ratio.

To make matters worse for the lockdown argument, total deaths in the US have not shifted dramatically in any direction. This was pointed out by the John’s Hopkins data analysis comparing deaths in the US from previous years. Below is a graph showing the total deaths by year in the United States, which can be found here.

So what does this mean for us? Well, for one, we must remember that the shocking numbers the corporate media continuously pump out are not correct. They are overblown with no chance of verification. The public must break away from the media paranoia. Otherwise, the media, in conjunction with big government, can do what ever they please while the public praises the eradication of their rights.

Second, we must ask ourselves: “If the lockdowns worked, why are they needed a second time? And, if they did not work, then why are we going to do it again?” This is a sign of mental psychosis, or insanity – repeating the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. The truth is, lockdowns do not work, and neither do masks. The science has proven this time and time again, and now with the vast amount of statistical data from this pandemic, we have irrefutable proof that none of the authoritarian measures taken are effective at all.

Either way you cut it – the lockdowns had little to no effect on the actual statistical outcome. Deaths are not on the rise, while faulty tests lead to a huge spike in case numbers. And now we have stories of people asking to be put to death (euthanized) rather than face another lockdown. This is the face of a dystopian nightmare. And we must snap out of it. The lockdowns don’t work. COVID is not as deadly as we previously thought. And our rights are slowly being stripped away for the plastic excuse of public health.