COVID isn't the Only Health Threat


Excess deaths in the US from causes other than COVID-19 are now higher than at any time during the pandemic. The large shaded area in the attached chart represents the number of weekly expected deaths. The heavy red line represents the total number of reported deaths in the week. The difference between the two is the number of excess deaths.


I've segmented these excess deaths into 3 groups. Reading from the bottom, the largest proportion of excess deaths is attributed to COVID-19. The next largest group represents deaths from other medical conditions: circulatory, renal, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer disease, respiratory illnesses, and a few others. The smallest portion of excess deaths come from other causes such as accidents, murders, suicides, drug overdoses, etc.


These non-COVID excess deaths are at least part of the reason there are currently over 10,000 more ICU rooms occupied than there were last year around this time. ICU hospitalizations are currently falling, but I'm not confident that will continue.


Hospitalizations have been rising steadily since mid-July in Minnesota, a state where 91% of all people over the age of 64, have been vaccinated. This is significant because this is the part of the country where hospitalizations were rising a year ago. The question is whether the rest of the nation will follow suit. There are too many variables with unknown values to make a prediction.


All I can say is the probability of that happening appears to be increasing. Why? Because outside of the South cases are mostly holding steady; not steadily decreasing. This has generally meant cases are about to head back up. But there are ways of looking at the data that say it could be different this time.


If it's not different, then given the current, elevated level of ICU occupancy, a less-severe COVID outbreak than last year has the potential to create a greater strain on many states' healthcare systems than they experienced last fall.


If you've chosen to get vaccinated, then great. In addition, please make sure you and people you care about aren't neglecting their physical or mental health in other ways. The data say quite a few people are.

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