While coronavirus infections and deaths are falling across the country, one study claims that the actual number of deaths from the pandemic is 57% higher than the official count.
The study by researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation was published on Thursday and said the actual number of coronavirus deaths in the United States could be as high as 900,000.
As of Thursday, the official count for the coronavirus deaths stands at more than 575,000 in the U.S.
Researchers said they tried to calculate the true number of deaths “caused directly by the SARS-CoV-2 virus” by analyzing excess deaths reported during the pandemic period.
The study found that the same could be true for deaths globally.
The reported number of coronavirus deaths globally is 3.24 million, but the study estimates that the actual number of deaths from the virus could be as many as 7 million, more than double the official figure.
“The analysis just shows how challenging it has been during the pandemic to accurately track the deaths — and actually, transmission — of COVID,” said Dr. Christopher Murray, the head of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
“And by focusing in on the total COVID death rate, I think we bring to light just how much greater the impact of COVID has been already and may be in the future,” he added.
Murray explained that medical services are more preoccupied with helping patients than counting the deaths accurately.
“We see, for example, that when health systems get hit hard with individuals with COVID, understandably they devote their time to trying to take care of patients,” Murray said.
Other experts agree that the actual number of deaths from the virus might be higher than the official count, but disagreed with the conclusions reached in the study.
“I think that the overall message of this (that deaths have been substantially undercounted and in some places more than others) is likely sound, but the absolute numbers are less so for a lot of reasons,” said William Hanage, a Harvard University epidemiologist, to NPR.
The pandemic has spiked in India in recent weeks, where hospitals are being overrun and patients are being turned away due to lack of resources. There were nearly 4,000 daily deaths in India on Thursday, when less than a 100 deaths were reported in February. The total official death count is 230,000 but expected to increase dramatically.