This CDC chart shows that COVID-19 and illnesses that resemble COVID-19 are causing a high percentage of all U.S. deaths. Here are the 5 jurisdictions with the highest ratios of actual deaths to expected deaths for the week ending Oct. 3...

4. (tied) The District of Columbia: 1.23 to 1

4. (tied) Idaho: 1.23 to 1

3. North Dakota: 1.33 to 1

2. Arkansas: 1.36 to 1

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1. Wyoming: 1.51 to 1

Public and private COVID-19 trackers are reporting mixed numbers for the fall COVID-19 wave.

Reports are surfacing of severe outbreaks in some parts of the country, with Wisconsin opening a field hospital near Milwaukee, and El Paso, Texas, ordering 10 mobile morgue trucks to cope with a surge in the number of deaths there.

COVID-19 screening locations that were quiet now have long lines of patients waiting to get tested.

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But federal government death figures look stable, and an independent business data firm, Dynata, has symptom tracker figures suggesting that the overall percentage of U.S. residents with COVID-19-like symptoms is shrinking.

Mortality Data

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state health agencies take weeks to create reasonably complete state-level mortality statistics.

The CDC compares the actual number of deaths reported with the “expected number” of deaths. It comes up with the expected numbers of deaths for a given week by averaging the actual number of deaths that occurred in a specified place during the comparable week in a year, over the previous three years.

If, for example, the CDC was calculating the expected number of deaths for New Jersey for the 45th week in 2020, the CDC staff would average the number of deaths recorded in New Jersey for the 45th week of 2017, 2018 and 2019.

The most recent week with reasonably complete death data is the week ending Oct. 3.

The last time we performed a similar state-level mortality data analysis, we used data for the week ending Sept. 12.

The median actual-to-expected death count ratio for all 50 states and the District of Columbia was 1.085 to 1 for the week ending Oct. 3, up, slightly, from 1.08 to 1 for the week ending Sept. 12.

Because the states with unusually high death counts have small populations, and the states with low death counts have big populations, the actual-to-expected death count ratio for the entire U.S. population for the week ending Oct. 3 was just 1.04 to 1.

But the actual-to-expected death count ratio for the hardest-hit state, Wyoming, increased to 1.51 to 1, from 1.31 to 1.

For a look at the five states with the worst actual-to-expected death count ratios, see the slideshow above. Move your pointer around the first slide to see the control arrows.

For actual-to-expected death count ratios for all 50 states and the District of Columbia, see the table below.

The United States has recorded about 239,000 deaths resulting directly from COVID-19, as of today. COVID-19 has caused about seven deaths per 10,000 residents, or about 0.07% of U.S. residents.

The United States normally averages about 2.7 million deaths per year. In a typical year, about 0.8% of U.S. residents die.

The catastrophic 1918 influenza pandemic caused about 600,000 deaths, in a population of 100 million, or about 0.6% of the people living in the United States in 1918.

Hospital Capacity

Even though COVID-19 mortality seems to be stable, and the percentage of people with COVID-19-related symptoms may be falling, one grim-looking indicator is hospital bed occupancy.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is reporting that more than 70% of all hospital intensive care unit (ICU) beds are filled in most of the country.

It’s not clear from the HHS data what percentage of those patients have COVID-19, but HHS does say that patients with COVID-19 are using at least 15% of all occupied hospital inpatient beds in Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

The Dynata Data

Dynata, a data analysis firm, powers the instant surveys that pop up on many websites. The company has used some of its survey muscle to ask survey takers about symptoms that could be symptoms of COVID-19.

The company’s COVID-19 results dashboard shows, for example, what percentage of survey participants have a dry cough along with loss of taste or smell. The dashboard system can break that indicator down by country, by state, by age group and by other factors, such as age.

The Dynata dashboard results suggest that, overall, U.S. public health officials may be succeeding with efforts to control the new wave of COVID-19.

The percentage of all U.S. Dynata survey participants who said they had a dry cough with loss of the sense of smell or taste was 0.6% for the two-week period ending Nov. 6, down from 0.9% for the two-week period ending Oct. 16.

The overall percentage was 1% or higher from around July 1 through Oct. 10 and seems to have been below 1% since Oct. 10.

One question has been what the return of students to colleges, universities and other schools might do COVID-19 infection rates.

The percentage of U.S. Dynata survey participants ages 18 to 24 who said they had a dry cough with loss of the sense of smell or taste was 2.7% for the two-week period ending Nov. 6, down from 2.8% for the two-week period ending Oct. 16.

For participants ages 55 through 64, who are likely to carry substantial amounts of life and disability insurance and may also face a relatively high risk of suffering severe COVID-19 complications, the percentage who said they had a dry cough with loss of the sense of smell or taste was 0.5% both for the two-week period ending Oct. 16 and for the two-week period ending Nov. 6.

The Dynata maps confirm that COVID-19 symptom prevalence varies widely by state and age group.

In Wyoming, for example, the percentage of all people with COVID-19 symptoms increased to 2.5% Monday, from 2.1% Friday.

For people ages 18 through 24, Colorado, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Utah all have Dynata COVID-19 symptom rates over 5%

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Ratio of All Reported Deaths to Expected Deaths

(as of Oct. 3)
COVID-19 Deaths Pneumonia, Influenza, or COVID-19 Deaths Total Deaths Total Deaths as % of Expected Deaths
Alabama 103 157 1,032 1.09
Alaska NA NA 59 0.68
Arizona 35 98 1,187 1.13
Arkansas 112 150 765 1.36
California 329 611 5,562 1.15
Colorado 33 67 771 1.04
Connecticut 16 27 428 0.73
Delaware NA 16 175 1.02
District of Columbia 10 20 130 1.23
Florida 312 522 4,332 1.13
Georgia 149 211 1,731 1.09
Hawaii 20 31 213 0.99
Idaho 29 37 324 1.23
Illinois 142 245 2,104 1.05
Indiana 137 214 1,331 1.1
Iowa 83 114 653 1.08
Kansas 67 84 568 1.15
Kentucky 52 97 884 1.01
Louisiana 65 90 867 1.07
Maine NA 15 288 1.05
Maryland 41 84 1,059 1.15
Massachusetts 25 86 1,098 0.97
Michigan 77 159 1,996 1.1
Minnesota 68 107 844 0.98
Mississippi 83 133 681 1.16
Missouri 225 269 1,388 1.19
Montana 29 38 236 1.11
Nebraska 39 52 362 1.12
Nevada 35 66 539 1.13
New Hampshire NA 12 221 0.91
New Jersey 33 89 1,321 0.97
New Mexico 11 26 338 0.99
New York 50 171 1,954 1.05
New York City 34 84 968 0.93
North Carolina 0 0 NA 0
North Dakota 58 69 189 1.33
Ohio 131 230 2,504 1.1
Oklahoma 73 127 746 1.03
Oregon 21 38 700 0.99
Pennsylvania 123 225 2,623 1.04
Rhode Island 10 17 208 1.08
South Carolina 101 150 1,114 1.21
South Dakota 39 47 194 1.22
Tennessee 124 208 1,680 1.22
Texas 277 478 3,943 1.04
Utah 26 52 393 1.12
Vermont 0 0 125 1.03
Virginia 86 138 1,474 1.17
Washington 45 102 1,129 1.08
West Virginia 19 34 303 0.7
Wisconsin 84 117 1,147 1.16
Wyoming NA NA 117 1.51
Puerto Rico 44 94 457 0.75

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