Coronavirus Death Toll Likely 'Undercounted' According to Harvard Professor

The death toll from the coronavirus may have been "undercounted" in the U.S. according to a report out of Harvard University. In an article posted in the New York Times on Wednesday, columnist Nicholas Kristof and Harvard statistician Rafael Irizarry estimated that the U.S. has already surpassed 100,000. Their findings also echo what Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Tuesday.

This would be significantly higher than the 85,990 confirmed deaths from COVID-19 that the CDC had reported as of Friday. The number was devised by comparing the overall U.S. death rates during Spring 2020 to previous years. However, inconsistencies regarding who gets autopsies mean they had to examine "excess deaths." These are defined as deaths that went beyond the number of people who would have died per statistical norms. The results showed that any April 25, there 70,000 excess deaths.

Looking at official figures for that day, 52,422 people were confirmed to have died from COVID-19. This leaves 20,000 deaths that are unaccounted for, and, they assert, likely related to complications from coronavirus. Granted, the numbers are purely speculative, due to preliminary data as well as the still significant number of unknowns factors concerning the virus.

Robert N. Anderson, the chief of mortality statistics at the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, acknowledged that the initial numbers were low. "There's probably less underreporting as time goes on," he said. In addition to the 85,990 coronavirus deaths the CDC reported on Friday, there are 1,412,121 total cases, up by more than 27,000 since Thursday.

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On Tuesday, Fauci testified to the Senate about the ongoing pandemic and addressed the likely discount in victims when asked by Sen. Bernie Sanders. "Given the situation — particularly in New York City, where they were really strapped with a very serious challenge to their health care system — that there may have been people who died at home who did have COVID, who were not counted as COVID, because they never really got to the hospital... I think you are correct that the number is likely higher. I don't know exactly what percent higher, but it almost certainly is higher."

Elsewhere in his testimony, Fauci confirmed there are currently eight vaccines in development from multiple candidates, which he said was like "multiple shots on goal." He said this was a critical strategy "because this will be good for global availability if we have more than one successful candidate."