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Covid-19 Fatality Rates Rising Again

Summary:
Not good news. Not that it was so great even before this. Figure 1: Weekly fatalities due to Covid-19 as reported to CDC for weeks ending on indicated dates (black), excess fatalities calculated as actual minus expected as of 9/16 vintage (green), as of 9/9 vintage (teal), fatalities as tabulated by The Covid Tracking Project/Atlantic (dark red). Light green shading denotes CDC data that are likely to be revised. Source: CDC  9/16/2020 vintage, OurWorldinData accessed 9/16/2020 and author’s calculations. Note that excess fatalities as of 9/16 vintage far exceed the officially designated Covid-19 fatalities for most of the sample. Further note that both of the CDC series – Covid-19 Fatalities and Excess Fatalities – drop off dramatically in recent weeks. If you didn’t read the notes

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Not good news. Not that it was so great even before this.

Figure 1: Weekly fatalities due to Covid-19 as reported to CDC for weeks ending on indicated dates (black), excess fatalities calculated as actual minus expected as of 9/16 vintage (green), as of 9/9 vintage (teal), fatalities as tabulated by The Covid Tracking Project/Atlantic (dark red). Light green shading denotes CDC data that are likely to be revised. Source: CDC  9/16/2020 vintage, OurWorldinData accessed 9/16/2020 and author’s calculations.

Note that excess fatalities as of 9/16 vintage far exceed the officially designated Covid-19 fatalities for most of the sample.

Further note that both of the CDC series – Covid-19 Fatalities and Excess Fatalities – drop off dramatically in recent weeks. If you didn’t read the notes attached to the CDC spreadsheet, you’d conclude that we’ve won! But inspection of the spreadsheet reveals notes that indicate that the most recent data is incomplete. To illustrate, I show the previous vintage’s estimated excess fatalities (teal, 9/9 vintage), indicating substantial additions to estimated fatalities occur in just a week. I show in this post  that about the four-five most recent weeks worth of data are going to be substantially revised.  I shade this period in green in the above graph.

Another hint that this is a substantial problem is provided by comparing the trajectory of the unofficial tally compiled by the Our World in Data, which indicates a much smaller decline.

That means it is possible that “excess fatalities” — our proxy measure for Covid-19 fatalities  — is still increasing (although officially designated Covid-19 fatalities are probably declining, as the Our World in Data series not subject to really large revisions). Finally, even officially designated fatalities are rising over the last week ending 9/12.

Menzie Chinn
He is Professor of Public Affairs and Economics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison

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