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Pneumonia Deaths Spike, but 'Flu-Like Illness' Map Starts to Clear: CDC

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The latest government COVID-19 pandemic report shows that the number of U.S. deaths from illnesses that look like COVID-19 started to shoot up in late March, and continued to climb toward the sky in April.

But maps tracking “influenza-like illness” activity suggest that the number of new cases reported each week might be falling.

Epidemiologists at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have published detailed statistics on COVID-19 and related illnesses in the CDC’s COVIDView COVID-19 activity report for the week ending April 11.


The CDC depends on state departments of health and, in some cases, city and territory departments health to send in illness and death reports. The numbers for the latest week are especially incomplete.

The CDC provides separate data on the number of people confirmed to be infected with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes COVID-19 pneumonia, kidney disease and heart disease.

The CDC also reports combined data on the spread “influenza-like illness,” and the number of deaths resulting from “pneumonia, influenza and COVID-19.”

Testing for COVID-19 is difficult and expensive, and the symptoms of COVID-19 tend to be similar to the symptoms of flu and pneumonia. Because COVID-19, flu, other flu-like illnesses, and pneumonia are so similar, “increases in pneumonia and influenza deaths may be an indicator of excess COVID-19-related mortality,” according to the CDC.


The latest CDC weekly COVID-19 report shows that the CDC received reports of 3,542 deaths linked to laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 for the week ending April 11.

Laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 accounted for 13% of all deaths reported for that week, up from 10% the week before, and up from 4.3% for the week ending March 28.

The CDC also recorded 8,876 deaths caused by pneumonia, influenza-like illnesses or COVID-19. Deaths from those three causes amounted to 19% of all deaths.

That appears to be the highest percentage of deaths caused by pneumonia, influenza and similar illnesses that the CDC has recorded at least since it began keeping records in the current format, back in the mid-1990s.

Although the percentage of flu, pneumonia and COVID-19 as a percentage of all death is high, the total number number of U.S. deaths appears appear to be a little below the average for the past three years.

The numbers for the week ending April 11 appear to be incomplete and subject to change, but the number of deaths from all causes was only 96% of the expected number for the week ending March 28, and 95% of the expected number for the week ending April 4.

New Cases

Although the number of deaths from illnesses that look like COVID-19 has been increasing, the level of new flu-like cases reported seems to be falling.

Many states began imposing school shutdowns, “work at home” orders, and other “social distancing” programs staring in mid-March. The typical incubation period for COVID-19 cases appears to be about 1 to 14 days, with a median around 5 days.

For the week ending March 28, the CDC recorded a moderate, severe or extreme level of flu-like illness in many states.

For the week ending April 4, the CDC found extreme levels of flu-like activity in New York, Louisiana and New Jersey, but the number of states with low or minimal activity increased.

For the end ending April 11, the numbers of states with low or minimum activity has increased even more, and the activity level in most states has decreases.

Wisconsin and South Carolina are two examples of states with relatively high flu-like illness activity levels that have stayed about the same, rather than improving.

Emergency Room Visits

The CDC also reports figures on the percentage of hospital emergency room visits that are the result of COVID-19-like illnesses.

The CDC says illnesses involved COVID-19-like illnesses accounted for 5.6% of the 1.2 million emergency room visits recorded for the week ending April 6.

That’s down from 6.7% for the week ending March 31, and down from 6.8% for the week ending March 24..

CDC Weekly COVID-19 Death Counts

Week ending date

COVID-19, Flu and Pneumonia Deaths

Deaths from All Causes

COVID-19, Flu and Pneumonia Deaths As a % of All Deaths

Feb. 29 4,096 54,968 7.4%
March 7 4,172 54,333 7.7%
March 14 4,140 52,381 7.9%
March 21 4,678 51,785 9%
March 28 6,597 52,569 13%
April  4 8,876 49,770 18%
April 11* 5,305 28,174 19%
* 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).


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