US Covid-19 Fatalities, Updated Estimates

Comparing CDC tabulated Covid-19 fatalities, excess fatalities, and unofficial data (an update to this post).

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 (teal), fatalities as tabulated by The Covid Tracking Project/Atlantic (dark red), IHME forecast (light red) . Source: CDC 7/15/2020 vintage, Covid Tracking Project/Atlantic accessed 7/18/2020, IHME forecast of 7/14/2020, and author’s calculations. 

Two observations: (1) the unofficial count is rising; (2) recent weeks’ (about a month’s worth) CDC data are subject to severe undercounting, so inferring recent trends on the basis of CDC data is not advisable.

From week ending February 22nd through the week ending June 13th, the cumulative CDC fatality tally is 119.2 thousand. Cumulative excess fatalities is 149.9 thousand, implying an additional 30.7 thousand Covid-19 fatalities above the official tally.

39 thoughts on “US Covid-19 Fatalities, Updated Estimates

  1. ltr

    Menzie Chinn:

    From week ending February 22nd through the week ending June 13th, the cumulative CDC fatality tally is 119.2 thousand. Cumulative excess fatalities is 149.9 thousand, implying an additional 30.7 thousand Covid-19 fatalities above the official tally.

    [ Critically important. ]

  2. Moses Herzog

    Whether this is connected to the above data in Menzie’s post or not I cannot say. But my subjective opinion is (and I know there has been at least some objective data to support this) that many of this COVID-19 deaths will be mis-categorized as “pneumonia” or other such common diseases so state officials and hospitals can make their data look better. I do think, comparing to months (maybe an average of the months of prior years such as comparing July 2020 deaths to the average number of deaths of July 2015–2019) and seeing what the excess deaths were for July 2020 compared to those months, Or even just “the year up to now” deaths for 2020 compared to “the year up to now” average deaths for 2015–2019. Everyone will say “well then the excess deaths could be for other reasons”. OK maybe, then maybe there’s a way to fine-tune the data. For example has there been a drastic up-tick in other respiratory-related type deaths (again, something like pneumonia, why would pneumonia deaths “spike” this year?? it strongly implies mis-categorizing of the death) in the year 2020. MY guess is this is happening in both rural and urban setting, but with many more of COVID-19 deaths being mis-categorized in rural settings as “pneumonia” (etc) and state officials being happy to let sleeping dogs rest on inaccurate categorizing of COVID-19 death statistics.

    A spike in pneumonia cases this year strongly implies that many of COVID-19 cases are being shifted to improve “official state” death statistics specifically related to COVID-19.

    1. Moses Herzog

      I guess I should say “generic” pneumonia cases, hopefully that was implied in the subtext of my words.

    2. baffling

      cdc deaths should be considered a lower bound estimate. as we know, they are not identifying all the deaths due to covid, but are also not including false deaths. so it can be thought of as a conservative lower bound. Using excess deaths, one can consider this the upper bound. The true number should fall somewhere in between. unless somebody can come up with a legitimate excuse for why we had an obvious spike in the data, it is safe to assume those excess deaths are covid related. the excess deaths curve is probably a pretty realistic estimate of the covid deaths.

  3. Moses Herzog

    Folks, next time you hear some arrogant know-it-all like Ken Rogoff tell you that as society moves from a paper currency society to a digital currency society that “the level of crime will drastically lower”, I want you to envision this story in your mind, and then ask yourself if maybe Ken baby is full of crap.

  4. pgl

    Trump’s interview with Chris Wallace was a real hoot. He actually said if you get this virus and recovered from it, you should not count as having got the virus. After all – you get over in just one day. And we thought Bruce Hall was the stupidest person ever!

    1. baffling

      trump is in way over his head and simply flailing right now. even the gop senate is moving away from trump and wanting to actually address the virus with testing and other care. too late for the masses however.

    1. Menzie Chinn Post author

      Willie: In documentation for the data, CDC clearly states death certificates — upon which the dataset is based — lag very much in being reported from local authorities. That lag is most pronounced in the most recent month (which includes June, for now).

      1. Moses Herzog

        Menzie, unrelated to the lag in the data set above obviously, I wanna tell you, I was “shocked”, I mean “shocked” when I saw this headline today in the state’s most widely read newspaper. I was ready to wager all the spinach I have in the refrigerator that’s about to go bad, that these numbers were accurate. I mean….. when you’re getting numbers like, 650, 910, 748, 815, and then you get 200 and 168 the immediately following two days over the weekend, you’d think the numbers were right on target, wouldn’t you??

        This BTW, has happened at least twice, both “coincidentally” when the numbers were exploding upward again. Apparently the state health department’s computers can’t handle any numbers north of 500 without it breaking down the entire system. Who knew?? I just for the life of me can’t figure out why these “technical issues” keep happening “coincidentally” when the COVID-19 cases and hospitalization numbers are exploding?? That’s so weird. Maybe sammy, CoRev, or Bruce Hall can tell us. Ed Hanson is good at solving these mathematical enigmas isn’t he?? I just hope Ed isn’t busy writing a paper with Barkley Junior on BEA’s GDP reporting protocol.

      2. Willie

        If there’s a lag, wouldn’t the lag skew the line to the right, not cause it to plunge? Am I being too literal and simple minded here?

    1. pgl

      Dropbox again? Who puts this junk together? Your link does not say. Are you these creations or did you get this in an email from Kelly Anne Conway?

      These little comments of yours adds NOTHING of value to the discussion that anyone paying attention would not have known already.

      1. Bruce Hall

        pgl, sources shown. You can increase the magnification on your screen by clicking on the “+” symbol.

        All data from CDC.

  5. baffling
    the response from the usa is to be considered a failure when compared to germany. the germans smashed trump in this response. hey maga world, how does it feel to lose to germany? this is what happens when a nation and leader respects science in the world around them. germany was an order of magnitude better in its outcomes than the usa. rather embarrassing, as a citizen of the usa.

    1. pgl

      “Germany showed how scientific communication can be vital in fighting pandemics. Its health minister’s status rose; its chancellor, Angela Merkel, (herself a scientist) broke down complex scientific topics to the public; and its top virologist, Christian Drosten, built a podcast following in the millions.”

      I have known a fair number of Germans over the years and when talking to each of them it would seem everyone in Germany is a scientist. Now we know Merkel has never liked Trump – which likely comes from the fact that Trump could not pass high school chemistry. But he can count down from 100 by 7!

    2. Bruce Hall

      Covid-19 deaths by state:
      New York – 21,669 (Andrew Cuomo – D)
      New Jersey – 13,761 (Phil Murphy – D)
      Massachusetts – 7,728 (Charlie Baker – R)
      Pennsylvania – 7.227 (Tom Wolf – D)
      California – 6,964 (Gavin Newsom -D)
      Illinois – 6,649 (J.B. Pritzker – D)
      Michigan – 5,596 (Gretchen Whitmer – D)
      Florida – 4,178 (Ron DeSantis – R)

      The Republicans aren’t feeling too embarrassed. States reacted differently. Some states told their people to go out and celebrate the Chinese Lunar New Year. Other states said send those infected patients back to nursing homes. Still others said “take precautions”. But it really didn’t matter because Covid-19 targeted minorities, old people, and “Ds”.

      Oh, and the Germans tend to be a lot cleaner. Lot cleaner.

      1. Menzie Chinn Post author

        Bruce Hall: You really should educate yourself about the incidence of Covid-19 cases/fatalities in SF Chinatown instead of relying upon whatever you are currently relying upon.

        1. Bruce Hall

          New York:


          It really wasn’t a Trump thing or a Pelosi thing or a de Blasio thing. It was a lack of clear information; a lack of sufficient information. They all downplayed Covid-19 for their own political narratives and pointed fingers at others when their policies came back to bite them.

          The reality is that most of the outbreaks are still localize in urban areas. What has changed is that there is a better understanding of which demographics are more vulnerable than when Govs. Cuomo and Whitmer required nursing homes to taking back infected patients. We also know that obesity plays a part in risk. We have more and better treatment protocols (although not universally agreed upon) which appear to be saving lives. We have more testing which has led the CDC to estimate that there have been ten times as many infections as officially reported and that the survival rate is much higher than originally estimated.

          1. Bruce Hall

            Not having access to it, I can’t say if the information was in-depth, accurate, unanimously accepted…. I’d be surprised if Pelosi didn’t have much of the same information, but criticized Trump for shutting down travel with China and Europe.

            I’m of the opinion that 20-20 hindsight hasn’t really applied in this instance, much less 20-20 foresight.

          2. Menzie Chinn Post author

            Bruce Hall: There have been numerous accounts, none denied, summarizing the basic point about the threat, in late January/early February. And even my old-coauthor Peter Navarro took heed early on, and vociferously argued for action (maybe not the most effective as it turned out — maybe following the pandemic playbook from the previous administration would’ve been better).

          3. Bruce Hall

            Menzie, in chronological sequence.

            “We now have enough data to feel pretty confident that New York was the primary gateway for the rest of the country,” said Nathan Grubaugh, an epidemiologist at the Yale School of Public Health.

            Even hindsight isn’t necessarily 20-20 when one is predisposed to a narrative. Did Trump make mistakes? Sure. But it sure looks like a lot of other people in power did as well. Lots of 20-400 foresight out there.

          4. Menzie Chinn Post author

            Bruce Hall: Pelosi/SF Chinatown is often brought up by the same cast of characters. How many cases were in SF Chinatown?

            Bill DeBlasio I can say made mistakes. But Mr. Trump was arguing into March “a miracle” would happen, and acted accordingly. In the grand scheme of things, I think that is an error several magnitudes larger than anybody else in position of power in the US.

          5. Moses Herzog

            The remark on “cleanliness” is very unfair. I shudder and grimace to think what Chinese people thought about “the average American’s” cleanliness, when they saw the mess I called my dorm/apartment. Somehow I think the reports “to those with enquiring minds” were not flattering. And I can’t say I blame them if they had that strong impression.

            It’s more related to policy than “cleanliness”. That’s coming from someone with a very German last name. You cannot hold people to blame for wanting to see loved ones and family when the government of their “native” ethnicity (if that’s the right way to word it) has bad policy and poor enforcement of laws on wet markets. Would you blame British people for the potato famine in Ireland?? There’s no real connection there. American government policy (state, federal, local) is the problem here.

          6. Bruce Hall


            How many cases were in SF Chinatown?

            I know that’s rhetorical because, like the NYTimes article (link provided in earlier comment) about the spread of the virus from NYC to the rest of the U.S., the virus has a tendency to spread and a specific count in a specific small section of San Francisco which has a large commercial area doesn’t really tell the whole story, does it?

            Meanwhile, I’m sure you’ll be pleased with the latest news:

          7. Moses Herzog

            One of the things, that really gets under my skin (my very white skin) is when people on this blog make unfair statements related to Chinese. It gets under my skin because I think Menzie (much to his credit, and proof of his strong personal ethics) has been tolerant of borderline comments related to Chinese, in order to keep the blog objective and give people freedom to speak their true inner thoughts.

            It appears that one thing many (not all) mainland Chinese have in common with white Americans, is when I made a comment critical of the Chinese Government, mainland Chinese assume I am making blanket comments about the Chinese people or Chinese ethnicity, even though in my mind the things are definitively different topics. Ask me what I think about the Chinese people , my answer will be the near polar opposite of my answer to the question of what I think about the Chinese government.. AGAIN, to me, they are definitively different topics. But the very small and narrow minds of our friends, Bruce Hall, sammie, CoRev, etc can’t seem to color inside the lines of this children’s level picture book. Folks, it really is not that hard to differentiate the two. Some of the best memories of my life, were and will always be, my time spent with Chinese people.

            Bruce Hall and sammmie and donald trump have lots of time to make tasteless ethnic jokes related to the monikers given to a severe respiratory illness Americans (mostly white trash) are calling “a hoax” and don’t have the small sliver’s worth of intelligence to know you wear a mask for a mostly airborne spread virus. What my question is, if they have to to direct anger at China for their own America social group’s stupidity, do they have time to get angry about things such as this??

            I think I understand (as much as a white person can) the anger Chinese feel when they here about “the Chinese blablabla” “The Chinese blablabla”, I think the dialogue would be greatly assisted if we took the extra effort to specify if we are referring to the Chinese people or the Chinese government. Would I not specify that, if I were referring to something dumb the Australian government had done, rather than saying “Those Australians are blabla blabla”????

      2. baffling

        Deaths in Germany – 9,094 (11per 100,000) – Angele Merkel
        Deaths in the United States of America 141,426 ( 45 per 100,000) – Donald J Trump

        Some nations react differently. Some leaders use science and confront the problem. Other leaders deny the problem even exists. See you in November, Bruce.

        1. Bruce Hall

          baffling, differences in demographics and policies and practices can account for a lot.

          The number that stands out here is the percentage of COVID deaths that occurred among Black Americans. Blacks constitute about 13% of the U.S. population but suffered 23% of all COVID deaths.

          1. Willie

            Think about the kinds of jobs Black Americans typically have and whether they can work from home in those jobs. And how many are essential workers with the same inability to work from home. Do your homework. Facts tend to debunk racism.

          2. baffling

            i see. it is not trumps fault that the usa did not respond well. it is the blacks fault. really bruce, after all we have been through, that is the best you can come up with? go crawl back under your rock.

          3. Bruce Hall


            I’ve provided enough information for you to make a rational comment rather than a rely on “racism” as a response. Data are not racist; your response is irrational.

          4. Menzie Chinn Post author

            Bruce Hall: Well, mentioning race without context seems problematic. If you adjusted numbers, say looking at how many people who are on front-line/”essential service” or in close contact, and looked at their morbidity and mortality rate, that might be insightful.

          5. baffling

            bruce, i show you data that says that germany had a much better response than the usa. merkel led a thoughtful and scientific response to the trump virus. trump denied its existence. i showed you the data from those responses. and bruce, your response was that blacks were to blame for the high numbers. don’t blame me for your poorly chosen defense. make a better argument. idiot.

  6. noneconomist

    Covid Addendum: Arizona, (Ducey-R) Texas, (Abbott-R) , Florida (DeSantis-R ), Georgia Kemp-R) have a combined population of 68.2 million. That’s 20.6% of the U.S. total.
    As of yesterday, those four states totaled 1009 cases, or 25.4% of the U.S. total. Management problem?
    More interesting, Florida, with little more than half the population of California , had only 9% fewer cases. Texas—with 73% of California’s population—had 14% fewer cases.
    I’m sure we’ll hear about California today passing New York’s case total. Not so sure we’ll hear much at all about the rising totals—as well as increasing deaths and death rates—in those aforementioned states where those enlightened governors have everything under control.

  7. Bruce Hall

    Now if you want garbage data…

    This is visual garbage and is meaningless. The idea of cumulative hospitalizations distorts the message that present increase in hospitalizations are well below those in April when they were climbing rapidly. Only present hospitalizations show the pressure on the health system and, furthermore, a national number is meaningless if current outbreaks are regional.

    But let’s take the 65+ group which has been the hardest hit. From 4/18 to 4/25, the rate went from 124.7 to 155.8 or an increase of 31.1. The current data shown, 7/4 to 7/11, goes from 313.3 to 321.8 or an increase of 8.5. Unless you mean to say that once a person goes into the hospital they stay there, the cumulative chart is misleading. Show the weekly NEW hospitalization rates per 100K and you will be communicating instead of confusing.

    Well, then the CDC data are incorrect. Or the NYT is conflating regional rates with national rates. An “cases” now include asymptomatic infections which were not reported in April. Lots of anecdotal information in this article.

    So much wrong here.

    1. baffling

      houston hospitals and icu units are full. texas has a republican governor. now i will say, he is not the imbecile that resides in florida. and when he was finally forced to take action (he resisted all the way), he helped to implement some processes such as masks, that are helping. and that is bearing in the data. the curve is beginning to slow down in texas compared to earlier when masks and other actions had not been implemented. in florida the growth continues unabated. we could be in much better shape if action had been (and should have been) taken sooner in texas. you want to reopen the schools? take action today to mitigate the virus. the trump virus is not going to miraculously ‘just disappear’.

      1. Moses Herzog

        I’m too much of a lazy SOB to check, but it would be interesting to do a quick run down on the 10 states shown in the NYT graph, and see how many are led by Republican governors and how many of the 10 are run by Democrat governors:

        On a per capita basis Oklahoma should also be on this list, but apparently as far as counting cases Oklahoma’s state health department (OSDH) can’t even do Junior High level math:

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