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Overview: Death certificate data, corrected for recent under-reporting, reveals a 10-20% decrease in weekly deaths compared to seasonal norms commencing in early March, 2020. This date coincides with the widespread closing of public schools. It is hypothesized that a decrease in traffic accidents is the most likely explanation for the decrease, a conclusion which would be confirmed from detailed analysis of the death certificate data.
I had previously blogged on the caution needed when analyzing the death counts from death certificate data compiled by the CDC. The most recent weeks always have under-counted totals because it takes weeks to months for all of the death certificates to trickle in and be counted. Use of the data without knowing this can lead to false conclusions about recently declining death rates. I outlined a simple method for doing a first-order correction of the data based upon the number of additional death reports in each successive week, a method which I use here.
I then computed the weekly percent departures from the average seasonal cycle for the entire time period (since week 40 of 2015). The results (Fig. 2) show the unusually bad peak in seasonal flu and pneumonia deaths in 2017-18, which as expected results in a larger increase in adults that children.
Of course, the same kind of reduction would be expected in the adult age category, but it is completely overwhelmed in Fig. 2 by the large increase due to COVID-19 deaths, which peaked in mid-April. Since there have been very few COVID-19 deaths in children we more clearly see the reduction in that age group. In absolute terms, a 15% reduction in childhood deaths equates to about 85 children per week. 59ce067264