U.S. officials announced Thursday that testing laboratories have detected a second case of the omicron variant if COVID-19 in the United States.
Whether or not the arrival of the omicron variant turns out to be a major event in the pandemic, COVID-19 variants of all kinds are all already causing what appears to be a surge of increasing mortality in many states.
Analysis of weekly state and national all-cause mortality data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that the third big national wave, which swept over the United States from mid-August to mid-October, was about as severe as the waves the struck in the spring of 2020 and in January 2021.
For financial professionals, these figures mean that life insurance pricing actuaries are likely thinking hard about life insurance premium increases.
Because of the deaths caused by the COVID-19 waves, high levels of mortality between waves, and the pressure the pandemic has put on the U.S. economy, workers and the health care system, the total number of deaths recorded between the first full week of 2021 and the week ending Nov. 6 amounted to 2.9 million, or about 16% more than the expected total, according to CDC mortality figures that are adjusted to compensate for state data reporting delays.
The United States may have experienced fewer deaths from some causes so far this year, but more deaths from COVID-19, drug overdoses, suicide and other causes. The country has experienced about 389,000 excess deaths.
In 2020, the United States recorded about 454,000 excess deaths. That pushed the total number of deaths to 2.4 million, or about 16% over that year’s expected total for all of 2020.
Before the pandemic struck, Swiss Re actuaries viewed a pandemic that would cause a 0.1% increase in all-cause mortality for life insurance policyholders as a noteworthy concern.
Figures for the week ending Nov. 6 — the most recent week for which reasonably complete mortality numbers are available — suggest that the fall wave is still washing over many states.
Differences between actual mortality and expected mortality range from a drop of about 36%, in Connecticut to an excess of 50%, in one state in the West. The median difference is an excess of 10.5%.
For a look at the five states with the biggest excess mortality levels in the week ending Nov. 6, see the slideshow above.
For data for all 50 states and the District of Columbia, see the table below.
Hospital intensive care unit occupancy figures, which tend to flow in more quickly than state mortality figures, support the idea that many states continue to face severe pressure because of (1) a combination of high numbers of COVID-19 patients who need ICU-level care, and (2) the effects of ICU constraints on patients suffering from conditions other than COVID-19.
Patients with COVID-19 filled about 18% of the staffed adult ICU beds in a typical state in the week ending Nov. 26. The ICU occupancy level is about 30% lower than it was in late September in the typical state, but at least 10% higher than in September in a dozen states.
Actual vs. Expected Deaths, From All Causes
|State||Observed deaths (week ending Nov. 6)||Average Number of Deaths||Difference From Expected Number|
|District of Columbia||101||123||-17.9%|
|New York City||1,200||1,071||+12.0%|