DETROIT – A new study found the number of coronavirus (COVID-19) deaths in the early months of the pandemic might have been underestimated by nearly 30%.
Experts said determining how many people have died from COVID-19 is not as easy as it seems.
Researchers looked at the total number of deaths between March 1 and May 30 of this year and compared that to the historical number of deaths in the same time frame.
They found there were roughly 122,000 more deaths than expected. A large portion of them -- about 95,000 -- were directly attributed to a diagnosis of COVID-19, leaving 27,000 excess deaths that were not clearly explained.
In Michigan, experts identified 6,100 deaths above what should be expected, with roughly 4,800 attributed to COVID-19. That leaves more than 1,200 additional deaths that are incompletely explained.
The authors of the study believe the additional deaths might have been from multiple sources, such as unrecognized, and therefore uncounted, COVID-19 infections and medical conditions worsened by the pandemic due to less access to medical care.
Another newly published study in the Journal of the American Medical Association looked at medical causes of death in five of the hardest-hit states -- Michigan, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.
During the COVID-19 peak in March and April, deaths from diabetes rose 96%. Heart disease rose 89%. Alzheimer’s rose 64%. Strokes rose 35%.
The authors of the study suspect some of the deaths happened among people unwilling to seek medical care due to coronavirus fears.
The important lesson is that as COVID-19 cases continue to surge nationwide, chronic medical conditions will worsen if they aren’t attended to and treated. Emergencies are still emergencies, even during a pandemic.