Spikes in deaths during pandemic not only from COVID-19


Spikes in the number of deaths are to be expected during a pandemic. 1,667 people in South Dakota have died from COVID-19. But a large jump over the number of deaths expected in 2020 wasn’t only due to COVID-19.

The CDC averages out the number of deaths over a 10-year period to chart how many deaths can be expected.

Courtesy: SDSU Epidemiologist Bonny Specker

Any number that exceeds a weekly calculated threshold is called “excess deaths”.

In 2017, there were no weeks where South Dakota saw excess deaths. In 2018 and 2019 there was one week in each year where deaths spiked in the state during the flu season.

“Those excess deaths that are not COVID, could be due to things like misclassification of deaths that were COVID, but didn’t get coded as being COVID on a death certificate. It also might result from the big strain on health care systems. And you have more deaths than you would expect,” SDSU Epidemiologist Bonny Specker said.

Courtesy: SDSU Epidemiologist Bonny Specker
Courtesy: SDSU Epidemiologist Bonny Specker

While many people believe that all deaths are being coded as COVID-19, Specker says the data shows that all deaths are elevated compared with normal times, even when you take out COVID-19 as a cause of death.

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