Early signs suggest that the current U.S. COVID-19 surge could be more deadly than the catastrophic surge that swept the country in the fall.
The total number of U.S. COVID-19 deaths reported in the federal government’s COVID-19 Community Profile Report increased to 16,565 in the week ending Feb. 1.
That’s up 74.5%, from 9,492, for the week ending Sept. 14, 2021, which was the deadliest week of the fall surge.
For a look at changes in the number of COVID-19 deaths between the week ending Sept. 14, 2021, and the week ending Feb. 1 in the five highest-population states, see the gallery above.
For data on all 50 states and the District of Columbia, see the chart below.
The Mortality Backdrop
Life insurers had hoped that vaccination campaigns, social distancing efforts and the effects of past COVID-19 infections on people’s immune systems would start to reduce the impact of the pandemic on people with commercial life insurance and other commercial insurance products.
While the fall 2021 surge was underway, information about deaths and life insurance claims emerged slowly. Some life insurers suggested that the fall surge seemed to be spiking hard but ending quickly.
Now, Unum Group, Lincoln Financial, MetLife and other life insurers are saying that the fall surge did cause big increases in the ratio of death benefits to life insurance premiums. At Unum, for example, the ratio increased to 98.3% in the latest quarter, from 71.7% in the fourth quarter of 2019, before the pandemic began.
But those insurers have generally reported strong profits, despite the effects of the pandemic, because of the strong performance of annuities, non-life employee benefits units and other operations.
The federal government depends on states to report COVID-19 data and other death data.
Factors other than the actual number of deaths that could affect the death statistics include state enthusiasm about death reporting, changes in state cause-of-death assignment rules, and changes in how physicians go about assigning causes of death and reporting deaths.
In some cases, for example, big surges in deaths could overwhelm the people and organizations responsible for reporting deaths.
The final number of total deaths caused by a surge depends on how long the surge lasts as well as the intensity of the surge in the peak week.
The Community Profile Reports do not provide breakdowns of deaths by age, income or other measures, and it’s possible that the current surge could cause a much bigger impact on mortality in the general population than in the insured population.
COVID-19 Deaths: The Current Surge Versus the Fall Surge
|Week Ending Sept. 14, 2021||Week Ending Feb. 1, 2022||Change Between September Peak and Week Ending Feb. 1|
|District of Columbia||4||12||+200.0%|