UPDATE: Total U.S. death numbers rose sharply after the publication of this article, and data revisions increased the reported mortality totals for March. An earlier version of the headline gave a misleading impression of what happened to death totals in March. We’ve changed the headline to reflect the fact that, in mid-April, the CDC death figures for March were still incomplete. See this article for coverage of CDC data issues, and this article for a look at how data updates significantly increased total U.S. mortality figures from the week ending March 28 through the week ending May 9.
The virus that causes COVID-19 pneumonia and heart inflammation, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), infected about 644,000 people in the United States and killed about 29,000 as of early spring 2020.
Public health officials worry the pandemic may just be starting to move into some communities.
The National Center for Health Statistics, an arm of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recently released a weekly COVID-19 activity report, including maps showing its spread in the United States in early 2020.
- The CDC’s weekly flu report is available here.
- The CDC’s weekly COVID-19 report is available here.
- The CDC’s provisional COVID-19 mortality data table is available here.
- An article about the possibility that COVID-19 could reduce dental insurance claims for three years is available here.
The CDC bases some of its COVID-19 tracking charts and maps on data on confirmed cases of people with COVID-19.
The CDC bases other charts and maps on data on all kinds of cases of pneumonia and “influenza-like illnesses.”
Even if states have trouble keeping track of COVID-19 cases, a severe COVID-19 outbreak would lead to increases the number of people going to doctor for influenza-like illnesses, or dying from “pneumonia and influenza.”
A severe COVID-19 outbreak that kills people without causing pneumonia would show up in the CDC’s “deaths from all causes” data.
The new weekly COVID-19 report shows that the percentage of all U.S. deaths caused by pneumonia and influenza spiked to epidemic levels in the week ending March 28 — the last week in the pneumonia and influenza chart.
At the end of March, the percentage of all deaths recorded as being caused by pneumonia or influenza was lower than the level recorded in late 2017.
A set of tables linked to that chart shows that states first began reporting a significant number of deaths caused by COVID-19 during the week ending March 21.
The percentage of all deaths classified as being caused by COVID-19 increased to 11% during the week ending April 11, from 1% during the week ending March 21.
The death count totals for the weeks ending April 4 and April 11 are still incomplete. The CDC death count tables for earlier weeks show that, from the week ending Feb. 1 through the week ending March 28, the average number of deaths was about 6% below the three-year average.
The Influenza-Like Illness Activity Maps
The weekly COVID-19 report also includes two maps, for influenza-like illness activity, that suggests that efforts to close schools and get people to stay home might be slashing the overall level influenza-like illness activity.
The map for the week ending March 28 shows high or very high influenza-like illness activity in most of the country.
The map for the week ending April 4, after many states had imposed strict “shelter in place” rules, shows that the activity level in most states fell to a moderate level or lower.
The states that reported very high influenza-like illness activity levels for the week ending April 4 were Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and South Carolina.
The weekly COVID-19 report also includes a chart show trends in outpatient office visits for influenza-like illness as a percentage of all office visits.
The typical level is 2%.
The level for the week ending April 4 was 3.9%, but that’s down from a recent peak of about 6.4% during the week ending March 21.
CDC Weekly COVID-19 Death Counts
Week ending date
Deaths from All Causes
Percent of Expected Deaths
|* Reporting for these weeks is still incomplete.|
|Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, Provisional Death Counts for Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19).|
— Read What If COVID-19 Lowers Health Claims?, on ThinkAdvisor.