No Excess Deaths From COVID1984 in U.S.


No Excess Deaths From COVID1984 in U.S.

On 22 November 2020, an article by Yanni Gu was published in the Johns Hopkins News-Letter, a student publication. The article summarizes Genevieve Briand’s findings that there are no excess deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S., that the official stats are misleading and that there is indication of misclassification. The article has since been retracted. Here follow some extracts from the article:

According to new data [], the U.S. currently ranks first in total COVID-19 cases, new cases per day and deaths. Genevieve Briand, assistant program director of the Applied Economics master’s degree program at Hopkins, critically analyzed the effect of COVID-19 on U.S. deaths using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in her webinar titled “COVID-19 Deaths: A Look at U.S. Data.”

From mid-March to mid-September, U.S. total deaths have reached 1.7 million, of which 200,000, or 12% of total deaths, are COVID-19-related. Instead of looking directly at COVID-19 deaths, Briand focused on total deaths per age group and per cause of death in the U.S. and used this information to shed light on the effects of COVID-19.

She explained that the significance of COVID-19 on U.S. deaths can be fully understood only through comparison to the number of total deaths in the United States.

After retrieving data on the CDC website, Briand compiled a graph representing percentages of total deaths per age category from early February to early September, which includes the period from before COVID-19 was detected in the U.S. to after infection rates soared.

Surprisingly, the deaths of older people stayed the same before and after COVID-19. Since COVID-19 mainly affects the elderly, experts expected an increase in the percentage of deaths in older age groups. However, this increase is not seen from the CDC data. In fact, the percentages of deaths among all age groups remain relatively the same.

The reason we have a higher number of reported COVID-19 deaths among older individuals than younger individuals is simply because every day in the U.S. older individuals die in higher numbers than younger individuals,” Briand said.

Briand also noted that 50,000 to 70,000 deaths are seen both before and after COVID-19, indicating that this number of deaths was normal long before COVID-19 emerged. Therefore, according to Briand, not only has COVID-19 had no effect on the percentage of deaths of older people, but it has also not increased the total number of deaths.

No Excess Deaths From COVID1984 in U.S. graph1Graph depicts the number of deaths per cause during that period in 2020 to 2018.

This trend is completely contrary to the pattern observed in all previous years. Interestingly, as depicted in the table below, the total decrease in deaths by other causes almost exactly equals the increase in deaths by COVID-19. This suggests, according to Briand, that the COVID-19 death toll is misleading. Briand believes that deaths due to heart diseases, respiratory diseases, influenza and pneumonia may instead be recategorized as being due to COVID-19.

No Excess Deaths From COVID1984 in U.S. graph2Graph depicts the total decrease in deaths by various causes, including COVID-19.

The CDC classified all deaths that are related to COVID-19 simply as COVID-19 deaths. Even patients dying from other underlying diseases but are infected with COVID-19 count as COVID-19 deaths. This is likely the main explanation as to why COVID-19 deaths drastically increased while deaths by all other diseases experienced a significant decrease.

All of this points to no evidence that COVID-19 created any excess deaths. Total death numbers are not above normal death numbers. We found no evidence to the contrary,” Briand concluded.

In an interview with The News-Letter, Briand addressed the question of whether COVID-19 deaths can be called misleading since the infection might have exacerbated and even led to deaths by other underlying diseases.

If [the COVID-19 death toll] was not misleading at all, what we should have observed is an increased number of heart attacks and increased COVID-19 numbers. But a decreased number of heart attacks and all the other death causes doesn’t give us a choice but to point to some misclassification,” Briand replied.

In other words, the effect of COVID-19 on deaths in the U.S. is considered problematic only when it increases the total number of deaths or the true death burden by a significant amount in addition to the expected deaths by other causes. Since the crude number of total deaths by all causes before and after COVID-19 has stayed the same, one can hardly say, in Briand’s view, that COVID-19 deaths are concerning.

Briand also mentioned that more research and data are needed to truly decipher the effect of COVID-19 on deaths in the United States.

Throughout the talk, Briand constantly emphasized that although COVID-19 is a serious national and global problem, she also stressed that society should never lose focus of the bigger picture — death in general.

The death of a loved one, from COVID-19 or from other causes, is always tragic, Briand explained. Each life is equally important and we should be reminded that even during a global pandemic we should not forget about the tragic loss of lives from other causes.

According to Briand, the over-exaggeration of the COVID-19 death number may be due to the constant emphasis on COVID-19-related deaths and the habitual overlooking of deaths by other natural causes in society.

During an interview with The News-Letter after the event, Poorna Dharmasena, a master’s candidate in Applied Economics, expressed his opinion about Briand’s concluding remarks.

At the end of the day, it’s still a deadly virus. And over-exaggeration or not, to a certain degree, is irrelevant,” Dharmasena said.

When asked whether the public should be informed about this exaggeration in death numbers, Dharmasena stated that people have a right to know the truth. However, COVID-19 should still continuously be treated as a deadly disease to safeguard the vulnerable population.

Below is a comment that was originally posted the News-Letter site in response to the article.

Consider the following figures- US Total deaths by year per CDC:
2013: 2,596,993
2014: 2,626,418
2015: 2,712,630
2016: 2,744,248
2017: 2,813,503
2018: 2,839,205
2019: 2,855,000
2020: as of 11/14 total deaths= 2,512,880

At present the US is experiencing a 1.12% increase in overall mortality rates for 2020- not good- pandemicky numbers to be sure.

However, last year, 2019, there was also a 1.12% increase. Did we miss a pandemic in 2019?

But wait it’s even “scarier”- 2018 saw a 1.22% increase in mortality rates, 2017 saw a 1.24% increase, 2016 1.27% increase, 2015 1.27% increase, 2014 1.29% increase- all exceeding 2020’s increase in mortality rate- so does this mean we have had pandemics for the last 7 years?

Does this indicate non-stop pandemics every year for the last 7 years and we just weren’t paying attention and didn’t have an ‘honest” media to keep us pinned to our beds in a proper state of fear?

And BTW 2013 all the way back to 2009 all showed .09% increases in mortality rates- don’t know where the cutoff is but certainly even these years were “pandemic like” if you feel this year was truly a pandemic.

It isn’t until we go back to the year 2008 that we see a decrease in overall mortality rates in the US. For 20 straight years there were decreases in mortality rates and then in 2009 this changed- since then we have had an increase in mortality rates. Why is that? Could this point to the 2008 economic recession as being the leading indicator rather than some supernatural viral entity?

In reality this year at present seems to be no different in overall mortality rates compared to last year and less of an increase than 5 of the 6 the preceding years. How is this possible during a “pandemic of biblical proportions?”

It’s always important to look at the rates (populations are increasing and rates vary) and overall trends to get a clear picture.

The presentation by Dr. Genevieve Briand is published by JHU Advanced Academic Programs here:

Further Reading

The original article:

The retraction statement:

The article in retracted form:

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