As of January 14, 2023, the United States has officially experienced 1,094047 deaths from Covid-19 infection. There is, however, a remarkable difference in the mortality statistics broken down by state. And the accuracy of these stats are in question anyway.
In the tables below, I am using the concept of “excess death rates,” because raw Covid mortality data can be misleading. For instance, hospitals may count patients with diseases such as end-stage heart disease as Covid deaths, when in reality the virus was an innocent bystander. Conversely, a suicide, for instance, may not be explicitly counted as a Covid death, but financial dislocations attendant upon the pandemic are surely a factor in many suicides during the pandemic. Deaths from all causes is a figure no one can argue with, so deaths beyond what would be statistically predicted is a powerful way to gauge the impact of the pandemic.
So I prefer the “excess deaths” statistic when tracking the severity of the Covid pandemic. This figure simply looks at the number of deaths from all causes that is greater than expected compared to recent average mortality statistics. The difference is “excess deaths,” which captures all deaths regardless of cause. For example, a state may have averaged 100 deaths per 100,000 people (I am making these numbers up for purposes of illustration) for six years prior to the pandemic. If this figure jumps to 120, the excess death rate is 20 per 100,000 people higher than what would have been expected absent the pandemic.
Here are the states with the ten highest rates of excess death rates per 100,000 people in 2022:
Top 10 States Excess Death Rates
West Virginia 585
New Mexico 495
Here are the states with the lowest ten excess death rates per 100,000 people in 2022
Bottom 10 States Excess Death Rates
New Hampshire 156
The top ten average 490 excess deaths per 100,000. The bottom ten average 211.
What is Going On?
There are many factors to consider when analyzing states’ mortality data (e.g., stringency of state rules like vaccine requirements, mask mandates, lockdowns, etc.), but vaccination rates are a good place to start… and maybe end. Ever since effective vaccines have been available, the ten states with the highest rate of excess deaths have been vaccinated at a rate that is about half that of the states with the lowest rate of excess deaths. For example, the states with the highest rates of excess deaths are accessing the current bivalent vaccine at a rate of 12.3% of eligible people (five years of age and older). The number for the states with the lowest excess death rate is at 22.1
Standing in the World
Compared to the 20 best performing high income countries in terms of reducing deaths from Covid-19 between June of 2021 and March of 2022, the excess death rate in the US was higher than in most developed countries. In the US, the excess death rate was 111 per 100,000. In New Zealand, it was 3.7 and in Japan, it was 10.4. Germany, which is about in the middle of western European countries, had a rate of 52.3. To date, the vaccination rates, as defined by two doses, is 80% in New Zealand, 83% in Japan, 76% in Germany, and 69% in the US.
The total number of excess deaths in the US from the beginning of the pandemic to the present (mid-January, 2023) is 1,261,192. With a more effective vaccine campaign, estimates of the number of deaths that could have been averted had we had near universal vaccinations range from 150,000 to 470,000.
NOTE: all of the data referenced in this article can be found in the following web sites:
2022 Scorecard on State Health System Performance COVID-19 | Commonwealth Fund
It would be interesting to correlate your findings with other social factors, such as education, social-economic level, political leanings, racial-ethnic makeup. etc