One problem for life insurance, health insurance and annuity professionals with an interest in the effects of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) on mortality is that public health officials keep playing whack-a-mole with terminology and data.
The virus is SARS-CoV-2. SARS-CoV-2 causes a disease called COVID-19.
COVID-19 is a kind of pneumonia. SARS-CoV-2 also seems to cause heart damage, kidney damage, and, possibly, brain damage. Maybe officials will call all of those other manifestations of SARS-CoV-2 by the name COVID-19. Maybe, eventually, the other faces of SARS-CoV-2 will get their own names.
Data Beyond Compare
Officials sometimes report COVID-19 numbers by the day, by the week, by the month, or by some other period.
Sometimes, officials describe how the numbers have changed from day-to-day. Sometimes, they simply give the latest totals. Observers who want to know how the numbers have changed since the last report have to dig up the old report and do the math.
Sometimes, officials break the numbers down in terms of four-week periods. Other times, they use calendar months, in such a way that trying to compare the numbers for, say, a 28-day period in March 2020 with a 31-day calendar month in March 2018 is not exactly a statistically respectable thing to do.
Here, we tried to power past statistical respectability and come up with rough numbers to help start to answer this question: How many COVID-19 deaths in a state, in a given month, would be a lot of deaths, when compared with that state’s usual number of deaths per month, or that state’s number of typical number of influenza and pneumonia deaths?
The National Center for Health Statistics has now tried to bring some order to U.S. COVID-19 statistics by starting to publish a table of death count data based on the death certificate data in the National Vital Statistics System.
That data can be compared with the monthly U.S. mortality data in the Underlying Cause of Death database. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the parent of the National Center for Health Statistics, manages that database. The data now in that database extend only until the end of 2018.
- The CDC’s Underlying Cause of Death database is available here.
- The CDC’s latest COVID-19 and pneumonia mortality numbers are available here.
- An article about how a securities analyst is thinking about COVID-19 mortality is available here.
The 2020 numbers cover the period from Feb. 1 through March 28.
The (somewhat) roughly comparable figures in the Underlying Cause of Death database cover February and March in 2018.