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Sun Apr 12, 2020, 03:06 PM

The uncounted toll of this pandemic might be much higher then anyone realizes.

Last edited Sun Apr 12, 2020, 05:01 PM - Edit history (1)

I have a friend who works in the “death care industry” as she somewhat ironically refers to it. An assistant director at an Ottawa funeral home. Back in early March we had a text message exchange in which she told me she was extremely stressed out. As this was relatively early in the Ottawa outbreak I was curious and asked her why. Her cryptic reply was that the numbers she was hearing in the local news “did not add up”. She also told me by the terms of her contract she wasn’t supposed to talk about cause of death regarding her work, so I let it go and that and wished her well.

Just yesterday I was in Ottawa and offered to bring her some groceries, which I delivered to her garage, and we had a chance to talk further and she was even more stressed out. The situation in the intervening month had gotten worse. Much worse.

Her original comment about the numbers not adding up was referring to a large uptick in deaths being handled by her funeral home. At the time Ottawa was reporting very low casualties from Covid, although bracing for more. But at the funeral home they were swamped with elderly cases who’s deaths were NOT being attributed to the virus, but were arriving in numbers that seemed almost statistically impossible.

When the Coronavirus casualties started showing up she also saw a disconnect between cases they were handling, and what was being reported in the media. She said one night on the news they were reporting no new deaths that day, and she had just had to deal with 2 cases that same day who’s cause of death had been listed as Covid-19. Maybe just a lag in reporting time?

Then she told me something that really shocked me. In normal times before this all started her funeral home was accustomed to dealing with 1-2 deaths by suicide every month, and a similar number of drug overdoses. Both categories totalling 15-20 per year. She says since the social isolating began in earnest a month ago, since the markets collapsed and people’s income and life savings have disappeared, coupled with an almost total breakdown in the mental health care system, they have handled hundreds of suicide and overdose clients.

This aspect of the crisis we are all living through has gone completely unreported in the press. It’s a death total that dwarfs what is happening from the virus and she doesn’t see it getting any better. When this is over who knows how many thousands or tens of thousands may have chosen to take their own lives rather then face the grim future that lies ahead? It’s something the media needs to talk about.

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Arrow 31 replies Author Time Post
Reply The uncounted toll of this pandemic might be much higher then anyone realizes. (Original post)
robbob Apr 2020 OP
mwooldri Apr 2020 #1
BGBD Apr 2020 #24
SheltieLover Apr 2020 #2
House of Roberts Apr 2020 #3
csziggy Apr 2020 #18
Wounded Bear Apr 2020 #19
csziggy Apr 2020 #20
stopdiggin Apr 2020 #4
robbob Apr 2020 #6
stopdiggin Apr 2020 #8
Delphinus Apr 2020 #14
LiberalArkie Apr 2020 #5
saidsimplesimon Apr 2020 #9
LiberalArkie Apr 2020 #10
saidsimplesimon Apr 2020 #11
SheltieLover Apr 2020 #27
LiberalArkie Apr 2020 #28
Haggis for Breakfast Apr 2020 #15
GeoWilliam750 Apr 2020 #7
Maeve Apr 2020 #29
Wawannabe Apr 2020 #12
robbob Apr 2020 #13
Withywindle Apr 2020 #16
joanbarnes Apr 2020 #17
robbob Apr 2020 #21
Crunchy Frog Apr 2020 #22
robbob Apr 2020 #23
Crunchy Frog Apr 2020 #25
robbob Apr 2020 #30
PoindexterOglethorpe Apr 2020 #26
Amishman Apr 2020 #31

Response to robbob (Original post)

Sun Apr 12, 2020, 03:30 PM

1. Horrible phrase but "collateral damage" comes to mind.

I agree that the death toll due to Covid-19 will be higher than stated. Suicides, other deaths that could have been prevented if we were not in a pandemic. People who died from "pneumonia" or other Covid-19 effects but not officially attributed to Covid-19.

The figures we see on the TV and online are the official figures, and yes IMO the number is higher.

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Response to mwooldri (Reply #1)

Tue Apr 14, 2020, 12:04 AM

24. Outside of the increases in

suicides (purposeful or accidental) you will also have increases in deaths from lack of medical care due to resources or fear of infection. Maybe somebody has chest pain and they call an ambulance, but the ambulances are all busy so it takes an extra hour to arrive and the person dies, or they make it to the hospital but the hospital is too stressed and they die. Or, they are afraid to go to the hospital because they are afraid they will get COVID. So they put it off thinking it's not really serious, but they die.


The worse the pandemic, the more associated deaths there will be.

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Response to robbob (Original post)

Sun Apr 12, 2020, 03:48 PM

2. WOW!

And heart attack victims of covid, too. Not being reported.

Thank you for sharing this with us. So sad.

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Response to robbob (Original post)

Sun Apr 12, 2020, 04:26 PM

3. Hopefully one of the think tanks with enough staff will add up the obits,

and do some year over year comparisons, which should suss out the real stats.

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Response to House of Roberts (Reply #3)

Mon Apr 13, 2020, 09:23 PM

18. It could be a long time before we know the actual numbers

The figures for the Black Death in London are still being changed. I watched a documentary - "Secret History - Return of the Black Death " - the other night. Between finding new burials from the period and counting merchants' wills they brought up serious questions about the official death toll. Even so, the total deaths was horrendous.

A few years ago I saw a documentary about the public death toll in San Francisco after the earthquake and fire. The conclusion was that the official numbers vastly under counted the dead, especially those who died in the fires.

And of course, we know that there have been questions about the actual death toll along the Gulf Coast following Katrina. Most people concentrate on New Orleans but most of the Gulf Coast had severe destruction and people who went missing, many of whom may not have been counted as victims of the storm.

Basically between cover-ups of the numbers at the time of a disaster by officials, loss of knowledge because of the chaos during and following the event, and then problems accurately counting in the aftermath, many deaths will not be attributed to the actual cause.

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Response to csziggy (Reply #18)

Mon Apr 13, 2020, 09:29 PM

19. We will probably never know the real numbers...

I read where the R0 for Captain Trumps is in the 3-5 range, which means that every infected person, on average, will infect that many others. Which infers that for every case we know of, there are at least 3-5 people out there we don't know about.

Death rates in NYC are extremely high, and there is no way to know if all or any of the increase is due to CV.

The US is just not counting the total number of cases in nursing homes, long-term care, and senior assited living facilities. They are not even trying to count them on a national basis.

I doubt we'll ever truly know the extent of this.

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Response to Wounded Bear (Reply #19)

Mon Apr 13, 2020, 09:32 PM

20. True - people will try to estimate but we will never know for sure

All we'll be able to do is extrapolate from the death rates the years before coronavirus hit. I suspect the years after will not be a way to gauge since I suspect this virus will be around from now on so future death rates will include a certain number from it.

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Response to robbob (Original post)

Sun Apr 12, 2020, 04:30 PM

4. Two different things (and figures)

although I quite understand where you see them as interrelated (as they quite obviously are).
But "human costs", collateral damage and social costs (including deaths) are not the same thing as actual Covid deaths that are unreported. The under-reporting of actual virus related deaths is critical in that it corrupts the data and statistical modelling that are needed to fight the contagion itself. I will note that this under-reporting issue is being reported in major news outlets. Your friend is not alone in noticing frankly implausible numbers (and spikes) in total deaths during the period.

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Response to stopdiggin (Reply #4)

Sun Apr 12, 2020, 05:06 PM

6. I am reminded of that Italian post

From about a month ago where someone showed the obits from the previous month in the local paper, and then showed that days obits. It was something like a ten fold increase.

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Response to robbob (Reply #6)

Sun Apr 12, 2020, 09:18 PM

8. absolutely on target. (nt)

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Response to robbob (Reply #6)

Mon Apr 13, 2020, 08:04 PM

14. I remember

that too.

Our count here in NE Indiana is only 11 deaths (officially). We have done 808 tests, have 156 positives, and 11 deaths in a county of 350,000 (or so). If we don't test everyone, how will we ever know the true rate, who is immune, who is at greater risk, etc.

On a related note, I just read a story that a medical examiner in Thailand was infected by a corpse - if that is true, there needs to be a whole next layer of protection.

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Response to robbob (Original post)

Sun Apr 12, 2020, 05:03 PM

5. To be counted as a Covid death, I believe the person has to be tested for covid.

Last edited Mon Apr 13, 2020, 10:51 AM - Edit history (1)

Just like the numbers of people died from "The Flu" are usually lower since most people who die, die from pneumonia, heart attack etc. Very few people with the flu are ever tested unless they are in the hospital.

It will take years before the actual numbers are known, they may never be known.

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Response to LiberalArkie (Reply #5)

Mon Apr 13, 2020, 10:14 AM

9. The GOP doesn't want

to test and without accurate tracking, the US will be unprepared for the next wave.

It will take years before the actual numbers are known, they may never be known.

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Response to saidsimplesimon (Reply #9)

Mon Apr 13, 2020, 10:50 AM

10. I looked at my state, Arkansas

The state kept of health says 29 dead.
The CDC says Arkansas has 3 dead from Covid-19
The Johns Hopkins web site say Arkansas has 10 dead from Covid-19

go figure

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Response to LiberalArkie (Reply #10)

Mon Apr 13, 2020, 10:53 AM

11. In other news,

Arkansas claims the 3 dead have risen. snark

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Response to LiberalArkie (Reply #10)

Tue Apr 14, 2020, 05:04 AM

27. But didn't your state

have an unusually high number of deaths reported as from the "flu" in the past few months? Maybe those #s just jumped out at me because of the pandemic, but seemed like a lot to me.

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Response to SheltieLover (Reply #27)

Tue Apr 14, 2020, 07:41 AM

28. Just 9 new cases for the latest week

Death Report for Week 14
• Deaths from all causes: 643
• Deaths due to Pneumonia: 65
• PCR confirmed Flu Deaths: 0
• Death Certificate or Flu Antigen only: 2

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Response to saidsimplesimon (Reply #9)

Mon Apr 13, 2020, 08:24 PM

15. Didn't trumpie say just the other day

that businesses did not need to report cases of workers who had fallen ill to COVID-19 ?

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Response to GeoWilliam750 (Reply #7)

Tue Apr 14, 2020, 07:55 AM

29. Thanks for that link

A good read!

And excerpt:
The measurements in our chart rely on a New York Times analysis of provisional data from the National Center for Health Statistics, along with historical data from the C.D.C. and the city’s Department of Health. They capture the number of people who died within the city limits in each month since January 2000. The historical numbers include some small adjustments because of differences in how the two public health organizations measure deaths in the city.

The recent numbers are most likely an undercount. Even in normal times, death certificates take time to be processed and collected, and complete death tallies can take weeks to become final. This is especially true for cases involving coronavirus. “Covid deaths all have to be manually coded,” said Bob Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch at the C.D.C.’s National Center for Health Statistics, adding that death counts from New York City typically lag actual deaths by 10 or 11 days.

But even if the current count is perfect, roughly 9,780 people have died of all causes over the past month in New York City, about 5,000 more than is typical.

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Response to robbob (Original post)

Mon Apr 13, 2020, 06:37 PM

12. Rec' ing for exposure

2 persons reached out on DU last night in the mental health group.

Does need coverage.

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Response to Wawannabe (Reply #12)

Mon Apr 13, 2020, 06:44 PM

13. Thank you!

Last edited Mon Apr 13, 2020, 10:31 PM - Edit history (1)

So many new posts are flying in that this one had already sunk to the second or third page! I was going to post again just to bump it up but that seems a bit egocentric?

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Response to robbob (Original post)

Mon Apr 13, 2020, 09:07 PM

16. Yes, and we'll be hearing more about this

Thank you so much for the post and your friend's insights. And thank her for her service.

I've always thought the death toll has to be much higher than the official figures. People are dying at home and not being reported as COVID-19 deaths. There have to be thousands of people who have died in their homes and haven't even been found yet! And I see today that a lot of nursing homes and elder care facilities are NOT reporting. People aren't being tested enough to find the true cause of death.

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Response to robbob (Original post)

Mon Apr 13, 2020, 09:09 PM

17. Is this Ottawa Canada?

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Response to joanbarnes (Reply #17)

Mon Apr 13, 2020, 10:30 PM

21. Yes it is.

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Response to robbob (Original post)

Mon Apr 13, 2020, 11:25 PM

22. It will take a few years, but eventually we'll have a decent estimate of the real numbers.

researchers will have to analyze excess deaths and demographic info in great detail, but it will be done.

It took a few years to get good estimates of the real numbers for the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, but it happened.

I don't believe it will be possible to maintain a long-term coverup.

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Response to Crunchy Frog (Reply #22)

Mon Apr 13, 2020, 11:53 PM

23. I wasn't writing so much about a cover up,

although I did touch on the subject. My main concern was the dramatic rise in suicide and overdose deaths her funeral home was handling. These are casualties that will never be counted as part of the “official” Covid death toll, and yet they are still a result of the terrible times we are living through.

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Response to robbob (Reply #23)

Tue Apr 14, 2020, 12:19 AM

25. I wonder if they'll try to calculate an ancillary death toll.

It would make sense, given the scale of the pandemic. How many people are dying due to lack of healthcare access because of systems being overwhelmed by COVID-19?

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Response to Crunchy Frog (Reply #25)

Tue Apr 14, 2020, 09:48 AM

30. Well, you know tRump isn't going to do it!

As I mentioned above, just a comparative check of obits from local papers 2 months ago vs right now would tell a story.

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Response to robbob (Original post)

Tue Apr 14, 2020, 12:29 AM

26. We are very, very early in this pandemic.

It's going to be a long time before real numbers are known, and in all honesty, the real numbers will never be fully known. And that's not saying there's some kind of cover up, just that it can be very hard to count all the deaths from a specific cause.

Heck, a hundred years after the 1918 Influenza Pandemic people are still debating and revising death numbers.

I'm willing to assume that all actors are honest and above board (I know, not necessarily a valid assumption) and that they are all reporting the best possible numbers. Keep in mind that someone who died but was never tested for Covid19 will probably get a different cause of death on the death certificate. Doesn't mean there's a cover up. Just means there's a lot of uncertainty.

However this plays out, it will be at least 25 years down the road before we have honestly reliable numbers for 2020: how many infected, how many sick, how many died, and any other categories I've missed.

Meanwhile, go ahead and pay attention to whatever numbers are being put out right now. They're the best we have.

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Response to PoindexterOglethorpe (Reply #26)

Tue Apr 14, 2020, 09:58 AM

31. we'll never know accurate numbers from most of Africa, the Middle East, and India

Deaths outside of the better metro areas won't be communicated, let alone confirmed.

This virus will also likely linger there as vaccination coverage will be far more difficult to accomplish

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