CDC: COVID-Involved Deaths in Mid-August Down 63% From April Peak

Susan Jones | September 1, 2020 | 8:21am EDT
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A sign near the Navajo Indian nation town of Tuba City, Arizona as seen in May 2020. (Photo by MARK RALSTON/AFP via Getty Images)
A sign near the Navajo Indian nation town of Tuba City, Arizona as seen in May 2020. (Photo by MARK RALSTON/AFP via Getty Images)

( - Based on death certificates submitted to the National Center for Health Statistics (part of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), the number of deaths involving COVID-19 dropped throughout August, after increasing for four straight weeks beginning around July 4th.

For the week ending August 8, NCHS recorded 6,217 COVID-involved deaths, an 11.96 percent decrease from the 7,062 recorded in the prior week and a 63.50 percent decrease from the mid-April peak of 17,035 deaths.

For the week ending August 15, preliminary data shows 4,340 COVID-involved deaths, 30.19 percent fewer than the 6,217 recorded in the prior week.

As CDC notes, these are preliminary data which change over time as more death certificates are submitted and recorded. The biggest changes occur in the most recent three weeks.

The chart below shows the steady rise of COVID-involved deaths through the week ending April 18, followed by a ten-week decline through the week ending June 27.

COVID deaths started increasing again in the week ending July 4 through the week ending July 25; then dropped again in the week ending August 1, a trend that continues to this day -- again, based on incomplete data.

COVID-19 deaths are identified using a new ICD–10 diagnostic code. CDC notes that when COVID-19 is reported as a cause of death -- or when it is listed as a “probable” or “presumed” cause — the death is given a diagnostic code of U07.1. This can include cases with or without laboratory confirmation.

Death certificates with the U07.1 code produce the nation's official COVID death count, which now stands at 168,864 for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

As of August 31, CDC counts 5,972,356 total COVID cases in the United States since the pandemic came to our shores from China in late January/early February.

The CDC notes that deaths involving COVID-19 often include underlying comorbities, such as respiratory and circulatory conditions, obesity, diabetes and a host of other health problems.

The CDC also notes that for 6 percent of death certificates submitted to NCHS, "COVID-19 was the only cause mentioned."

But for 94 percent of COVID-involved deaths, "there were 2.6 additional conditions or causes per death." In other words, most people -- many of them elderly -- who were diagnosed with COVID had other conditions that made them particularly vulnerable to the disease.

The official COVID-involved death count does not distinguish between COVID-only deaths and deaths where COVID may have exacerbated an otherwise survivable underlying condition.

Again, according to CDC:

Coronavirus disease deaths are identified using the ICD–10 code U07.1. Deaths are coded to U07.1 when coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19 are reported as a cause that contributed to death on the death certificate.

These can include laboratory confirmed cases, as well as cases without laboratory confirmation. If the certifier suspects COVID-19 or determines it was likely (e.g., the circumstances were compelling within a reasonable degree of certainty), they can report COVID-19 as “probable” or “presumed” on the death certificate.  COVID-19 is listed as the underlying cause on the death certificate in 94% of deaths.


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