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Life Health > Annuities > Fixed Annuities

U.S. Mortality 6.9% Higher Than Pre-Pandemic Average

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What You Need to Know

  • The CDC uses early death counts when deciding whether COVID-19, flu and flu-like illnesses are causing an epidemic.
  • In the first four weeks ending in January, the number of deaths was lower than a year earlier.
  • The death count was still significantly higher than the average for the comparable periods from 2016 through 2020.

Total U.S. death counts, from all causes, may still be considerably higher than they were before the COVID-19 pandemic started.

Preliminary death figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the CDC had recorded 178,769 deaths occurring during the first four weeks ending in January, as of Feb. 2.

The new four-week death count is 1.7% lower than the death count for the first four weeks ending in January 2022. But the new death count is 6.9% higher than the average for the five comparable four-week data collection periods occurring from 2016 through 2020.

What It Means

Even if typical clients have given up on worrying about COVID-19, the number of deaths from all causes, including COVID-19, accidents, homicides, heart disease, strokes, reactions to COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, and other causes could still be high enough to throw off income planning forecasts or other calculations that depend on accurate mortality and life expectancy estimates.

The Earliest CDC Death Numbers

The CDC has been publishing FluView flu tracking reports every week for decades.

Since the 2015-2016 flu season, the CDC has used early, incomplete death count figures when determining whether the percentage of deaths occurring as a result of pneumonia, influenza or COVID-19 is above the epidemic threshold.

This line chart shows three huge waves of COVID-19, and that COVID-19 has been lower for about 9 months but is still at epidemic levels, and, apparently, climbing steadily higher. This is a copy of the mortality surveillance chart for COVID-19, flu and other flu-like illnesses in the latest issue of the CDC’s weekly FluView infectious disease tracking report. (Image: CDC)

The CDC defines a period as a flu epidemic period when the percentage of deaths caused by flu and flu-like illnesses, including COVID-19, exceeds a percentage ranging from about 6% to 8%.

From 2016 through early 2020, the percentage of deaths caused by flu and flu-like illness spiked to about 10% three times, then quickly fell below the epidemic threshold.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, that indicator has been above the epidemic threshold since early 2020. COVID-19 and similar illnesses caused 34% of U.S. deaths during the surge that began around September 2020, and they caused about 28% of U.S. deaths during the surge that hit in January 2022.

COVID-19 and similar illnesses are now causing about 10% to 12% of U.S. deaths.

The FluView numbers are of interest because the CDC publishes separate spreadsheets showing the death count figures used in each weekly mortality surveillance chart. That helps users filter out the effects of state death count reporting delays on the CDC’s death figures.

In recent years, the death numbers have usually looked much worse, not better, as more data rolled in.

It’s possible that, this year, the apparent increase in U.S. death counts is partly due to improvements in data reporting speed. If that’s the case, the “backfilled” 2023 death counts could start to look better, when compared with data from previous years, as time goes on.

Another Way to Crunch the Numbers

The CDC compiles death data more quickly in some years than in others.

In some years, the CDC did not release death counts for the first four weeks ending in January until mid-February, in the Week 6 FluView report.

One way to look at the latest four weeks of data in the Week 4 FluView report for 2023 is to compare those numbers with the most recent four weeks of numbers included in each Week 4 FluView mortality surveillance chart, even if some of those weeks ended in December.

Based on the “data as of Week 4″ approach, the new four-week U.S. death count is 1.7% lower than the count reported in the FluView chart data for Week 4 in 2022, but it’s 10% higher than the Week 4 average for the period from 2016 through 2020.

(Photo: Vydrevich Ilya/Adobe Stock)


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