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COVID-19 Deaths Were Not Just Reclassified Deaths From Other Diseases and Conditions


René F. Najera, DrPH

April 5, 2021

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has .* In the article, the authors include a table that tells a story of the COVID-19 pandemic so far in terms of death:

Note that the number of deaths from conditions other than COVID-19 remained well within their normal variation and/or trends. For example, Heart Disease remained at the top of the list and continued the upward trend from previous years. Cancer remained steady in the high 590 thousands. One category of death that showed a decrease after several years of increasing was Suicide. (Even as .)

Those numbers are also a good reminder that COVID-19 deaths are not "reclassified" deaths from other diseases or conditions, . If it were the case that heart attacks, strokes or complications from diabetes were being falsely -- or dishonestly -- classified as COVID-19 deaths, then those categories of deaths would have shown a decline in 2020 instead of an increase for all three. So either we had a massive jump in heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and influenza, so they could all account for the "reclassification" to COVID-19... Or, as the evidence and the science shows, COVID-19 really did account for over 345,000 deaths in 2020 in the United States. As the authors put it:

Most of the increase in deaths from 2019 to 2020 was directly attributed to COVID-19. However, increases were also noted for several other leading causes of death. These increases may indicate, to some extent, underreporting of COVID-19, ie, limited testing in the beginning of the pandemic may have resulted in underestimation of COVID-19 mortality. Increases in other leading causes, especially heart disease, Alzheimer disease, and diabetes, may also reflect disruptions in health care that hampered early detection and disease management. Increases in unintentional injury deaths in 2020 were largely driven by drug overdose deaths. Final mortality data will help determine the effect of the pandemic on concurrent trends in drug overdose deaths.

Ahmad FB, Anderson RN. The Leading Causes of Death in the US for 2020. JAMA. Published online March 31, 2021. doi:10.1001/jama.2021.5469


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