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COVID-19 death dashboards have become a fixture of daily television news broadcasts since March 2020. Whilst promoting daily death counters is unprecedented for any disease and clearly has deleterious effects on mental health, mortality trends may be the only accurate way to track the impact of the SARS-CoV-2 virus pandemic.

by Todd Kenyon PhD CFA

So-called cases and even hospitalizations are heavily influenced by testing rates and the most commonly used tests are unable to diagnose COVID-19 (they can only detect the presence of viral RNA; active or inactive). Yet even mortality statistics are highly uncertain – the WHO declares that a variety of factors lead to “a substantial lack of comparability between countries.” Attributing the true cause of death is far less straightforward than commonly believed, especially when it comes to COVID-19. 

Some claim COVID deaths are undercounted. In developed countries, few all-cause deaths go unrecorded, so for those regions we assume the total fatality number is approximately correct. Hence, it is a question of fatality attribution – what was the underlying cause of death and was it correctly assigned? Recent articles claiming that COVID-19 deaths are under-reported don’t actually demonstrate significantly more fatalities directly due to COVID-19 disease. In fact they show that the collateral or “spillover” effects of lockdowns, fear, and isolation lead to significant fatalities from other causes. Here we present strong evidence that true COVID-19 deaths are significantly overcounted and over-reported by the media. 

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