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COVID deaths

COVID-19 deaths near 1 million worldwide – ABC News


COVID-19 deaths near 1 million worldwide – YouTube















































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Misreported Deaths: Government count of nursing home COVID-19 cases still inaccurate despite criticism – knopnews2

(InvestigateTV) – Based on federal government data, one Louisiana nursing home has lost nearly the same number of residents to COVID-19 as it has beds.

At an Indiana nursing home, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is reporting more than five times as many COVID deaths as the state is.

And, at a Pennsylvania nursing home with 270 beds, CMS is reporting that more than 2,000 residents have died from other non-COVID-related causes.

More than three months after CMS first released data on the impacts of the coronavirus on nursing homes, the numbers remain misleading, inaccurate, and flawed.

“Why is this happening?” said Denise Bottcher, Louisiana state director of the AARP. “At what point do they raise the flag to see that there’s a discrepancy in this data? It’s incredibly important for the CDC to have this data (because) they’re advising the states on how we move forward.”

The federal nursing home data, which is collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and made public by CMS, was hailed as “historic transparency” when it was first released in May. It is supposed to be the definitive source on how many residents and staff members in the country’s 15,600 nursing homes have fallen victim to the ferocious virus.

The federal data is the only national collection of COVID-19 cases and deaths in nursing homes. Though every state collects the same data from nursing homes, it is not public in every state. Some states don’t release the names of nursing homes where outbreaks have occurred. Others don’t release the number of residents who have died.

But now, with week after week of discrepancies and inaccuracies, the national AARP is calling for greater transparency and accurate data.

“We need to have a better picture about how COVID-19 is affecting our nation’s nursing homes, their residents, and staff,” Rhonda Richards, AARP senior legislative representative, wrote in a statement to InvestigateTV. “Having this information can help residents, their families, and the public make more informed decisions, and better address preparedness and response now and in the future. We can learn how prepared facilities are, where there are issues to address, information on COVID-19 suspected and confirmed cases in facilities, COVID-19 deaths and total deaths, and more.”

Sen. Bob Casey, a Democrat from Pennsylvania who has long championed for nursing home residents, said it’s time for the Senate to investigate the data’s shortcomings.

“There’s no sense in sending out information if it’s inaccurate on something as grave and serious as COVID-19 cases and deaths,” Casey said. “It’s time we pushed the (Senate finance) committee to robust oversight.”

Skye Newell just wants accurate data so that families like hers know the potential perils facing their loved ones. Newell has long worried about a COVID-19 outbreak in the Florida nursing home where her father has lived since February.

Beginning in May, she routinely checked the federal website disclosing COVID-19 cases in nursing home to see how many residents had been infected at Life Care Center in Punta Gorda, where her father, Keith Broussard, is living.

“It’s very important that we have up-to-date information,” Newell said.

Skye Newell poses with her father, Keith Broussard, for a photo on Sept. 23 at the Florida nursing home where he has been recovering from a hospital stay since February. Newell said that this was the first visit that she has had with her father in the past seven months.

Skye Newell poses with her father, Keith Broussard, for a photo on Sept. 23 at the Florida nursing home where he has been recovering from a hospital stay since February. Newell said that this was the first visit that she has had with her father in the past seven months.(Submitted)

According to the federal government, there have been 25 cases and three deaths at Broussard’s nursing home as of Sept. 6.

The nursing home said in a statement to InvestigateTV that the federal data on its COVID cases and deaths is accurate and that it mourns those who have died.

Life Care Centers operates more than 140 nursing homes across the U.S. Its Kirkland, Washington facility, where more than three dozen residents died of COVID-19 during March and April, reports no deaths in the federal data.

The federal government allows nursing homes to choose when they want to begin case counts: on Jan. 1 or May 8. But there’s nothing to indicate which date the nursing home is using.

It’s unknown how many nursing homes are reporting as of May 8, which effectively leaves out two months of cases and deaths.

Life Care Centers has previously said that its case counts are accurate from May 8 on and that there have been no new deaths at its Kirkland facility since then.

But eliminating cases before May clouds the true toll of the coronavirus on the nation’s 15,600 nursing homes.

Nearly 200 nursing homes haven’t reported any information to the CDC, despite a requirement to do so.

The federal data shows that more than 3,500 nursing homes reported that they haven’t had a single case of COVID-19 among their residents. InvestigateTV compared 17 of them from the Cleveland, Ohio area to state data and found four facilities with cases among residents.

Comparing federal and state data of three nursing homes in Louisiana further illustrates some of the discrepancies.

At Good Samaritan Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, a 127-bed nursing home in New Orleans, federal data shows that 56 residents have died of COVID-19 as of Sept. 6. The state reports – and the nursing home confirmed – that there have been five deaths.

At a 120-bed facility in Napoleon, the federal data shows that the COVID-19 death toll among residents stands at 97. This effectively means that nearly every resident at this facility has died from COVID-19. But state data shows that only nine residents have died.

And at a nursing home in Monroe, federal data shows the total number of people who died from one week to the next declined from 96 deaths as of Aug. 30 to 90 seven days later.

The state does not have any case counts for this nursing home.

“When you look at this nursing home data, it gives me great pause,” said Bottcher, AARP’s Louisiana official. “All the decisions that have been made thus far in relation to COVID have been data-driven. It’s important for public health officials to have to the most accurate data available to them to be able to make the best decisions.”

Copyright 2020 Gray Media Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Coronavirus deaths

Coronavirus deaths significantly reduced by steroids, analysis shows – Fox News

A new analysis of several studies in which steroid drugs were used to treat severely ill COVID-19 patients found the drugs significantly helped reduce patient deaths, bolstering earlier, preliminary evidence for the benefit of these medications.

In multiple studies involving a total of 1,700 patients, a number of corticosteroids—anti-inflammatory drugs that can damp the effects of an overactive immune system—helped reduce deaths from COVID-19 by about a third, compared with patients who didn’t receive steroids, according to the analysis published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study, called a meta-analysis, was performed by scientists and physicians convened by the World Health Organization. The authors analyzed the results of seven studies, between February and June, that evaluated the use of the commonly used drugs dexamethasone, hydrocortisone and methylprednisolone. The study found relatively consistent benefits for using the drugs in severely ill patients: Of 678 severely ill patients who received steroids, 32.7% died, compared with 41.5% of patients receiving usual care or placebo.

CORONAVIRUS HITS OLDER MEN HARDER THAN WOMEN, STUDY FINDS

Scientists and physicians involved in the meta-analysis said the results raise hope that cheap, widely available drugs may become standard treatments for severe cases of COVID-19. “This to me feels like one of the first unambiguous wins in trying to combat COVID-19,” co-author Derek C. Angus, a distinguished professor of critical-care medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, said in an interview.

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He added that the results are especially encouraging because of the consistency of the benefit to patients seen across different types of steroids and should lead to wide acceptance of steroids as one line of treatment for COVID-19.

Dr. Angus cautioned that steroids appear to be beneficial only in the very sickest hospitalized patients. So far, no drugs have proven effective in treating earlier stages of the disease.

Click for more from The Wall Street Journal.

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Another deaths

Another 15 deaths, 600 new cases reported in Nevada amid COVID-19 pandemic – News3LV

Another 15 deaths, 600 new cases reported in Nevada amid COVID-19 pandemic – News3LV
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Coronavirus deaths

Coronavirus deaths take a long-expected turn for the worse – KSL.com

NEW YORK (AP) — A long-expected upturn in U.S. coronavirus deaths has begun, driven by fatalities in states in the South and West, according to data on the pandemic.

The number of deaths per day from the virus had been falling for months, and even remained down as states like Florida and Texas saw explosions in cases and hospitalizations — and reported daily U.S. infections broke records several times in recent days.

Scientists warned it wouldn’t last. A coronavirus death, when it occurs, typically comes several weeks after a person is first infected. And experts predicted states that saw increases in cases and hospitalizations would, at some point, see deaths rise too. Now that’s happening.

“It’s consistently picking up. And it’s picking up at the time you’d expect it to,” said William Hanage, a Harvard University infectious diseases researcher.

According to an Associated Press analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University, the seven-day rolling average for daily reported deaths in the U.S. has increased from 578 two weeks ago to 664 on July 10 — still well below the heights hit in April. Daily reported deaths increased in 27 states over that time period, but the majority of those states are averaging under 15 new deaths per day. A smaller group of states has been driving the nationwide increase in deaths.

California is averaging 91 reported deaths per day while Texas is close behind with 66, but Florida, Arizona, Illinois, New Jersey and South Carolina also saw sizable rises. New Jersey’s recent jump is thought to be partially attributable to its less frequent reporting of probable deaths.

The impact has already been felt by families who lost kin — and by the health care workers who tried to save them.

Rublas Ruiz, a Miami intensive care unit nurse, recently broke down in tears during a birthday dinner with his wife and daughter. He said he was overcome by the number of patients who have died in his care.

“I counted like 10 patients in less than four days in our ICU and then I stopped doing that because there were so many,” said the 41-year-old nurse at Kendall Regional Medical Center who lost another patient Monday.

The virus has killed more than 130,000 people in the U.S. and more than a half-million worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University, though the true numbers are believed to be higher.

Deaths first began mounting in the U.S. in March. About two dozen deaths were being reported daily in the middle of that month. By late in the month, hundreds were being reported each day, and in April thousands. Most happened in New York, New Jersey and elsewhere in the Northeast.

Deaths were so high there because it was a new virus tearing through a densely populated area, and it quickly swept through vulnerable groups of people in nursing homes and other places, said Perry Halkitis, the dean of the Rutgers University School of Public Health in New Jersey.

Many of the infections occurred before government officials imposed stay-at-home orders and other social-distancing measures. The daily death toll started falling in mid-April — and continued to fall until about a week ago.

Researchers now expect deaths to rise for at least some weeks, but some think the count probably will not go up as dramatically as it did in the spring — for several reasons.

First, testing was extremely limited early in the pandemic, and it’s become clear that unrecognized infections were spreading on subways, in nursing homes and in other public places before anyone knew exactly what was going on. Now testing is more widespread, and the magnitude of outbreaks is becoming better understood.


We’re not going to see as many deaths (as in the spring). But we’re going to see a total number of deaths, which is going to be large.

–Hanage, Harvard researcher


Second, many people’s health behaviors have changed, with mask-wearing becoming more common in some places. Although there is no vaccine yet, hospitals are also getting better at treating patients.

Another factor, tragically, is that deadly new viruses often tear through vulnerable populations first, such as the elderly and people already weakened by other health conditions. That means that, in the Northeast at least, “many of the vulnerable people have already died,” Halkitis said.

Now, the U.S. is likely in for “a much longer, slower burn,” Hanage, the Harvard researcher, said. “We’re not going to see as many deaths (as in the spring). But we’re going to see a total number of deaths, which is going to be large.”

Kristin Urquiza is worried things may get dramatically worse soon in at least some American cities, like Phoenix, where her 65-year-old father died recently.

When the dangers of the virus first became known, Mark Anthony Urquiza, a quality assurance inspector, took precautions such as wearing a face mask and staying home as much as possible, his daughter said.

But that changed after Gov. Doug Ducey ended Arizona’s stay-at-home order on May 15, eased restrictions on businesses, and initially blocked local lawmakers from requiring residents to wear masks.

By June 11, the elder Urquiza had developed a fever and cough. He was hospitalized and eventually placed on a ventilator. He died June 30.

“His life was robbed. I believe that terrible leadership and flawed policies put my father’s life in the balance,” Kristin Urquiza said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Ducey, a Republican, has more recently changed direction, closing many businesses and allowing mayors to make mask-wearing mandatory.

But Kristin Urquiza is worried. Her father received the care at a time when beds in intensive care units were readily available. Now some Arizona ICUs are becoming swamped.

“Other families are not going to be reassured the hospitals will have the capacity to give (coronavirus) victims the dignity and the health care that they deserve. And that breaks my heart,” she said.

___

Associated Press writers Kelli Kennedy in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Jamie Stengle in Dallas contributed to this report.

___

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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1 out of every 3 COVID-19 deaths is a nursing home resident or worker – ABC News














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Published on 11-May-2020

Fred Stratmann, chief compliance officer of Communicare, discussed what they’re doing to make a difference in their assisted living facilities.


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Coronavirus deaths

Coronavirus: New lows for deaths in France, Spain and Italy – BBC News

People buy fish in Marseille, 3 May

Image copyright
AFP

Image caption

Small fishermen are allowed to work in France and some are selling directly to shoppers

France, Italy and Spain have registered the lowest daily death tolls for weeks as they prepare to ease restrictions.

France reported 135 deaths; Spain’s 164 were the lowest since mid-March; and Italy’s 174 was a two-month low.

Meanwhile, a French doctor has claimed new tests on samples from patients show the virus was present in the country last year – weeks before the first officially recorded case.

In Russia the virus appears to be advancing, with 10,000 new infections.

But Russia’s mortality rate remains low relative to other countries. On Sunday it recorded 58 deaths, taking its total to 1,280.

The UK recorded 315 new deaths and has the third-highest number of deaths behind the US and Italy. However, British officials say the outbreak has peaked and the number of new hospital admissions is declining.

Globally the pandemic has seen nearly 3.5 million people infected and nearly 250,000 people have died.

Was the virus in France last year?

The number of new recorded deaths is the lowest since late March, when only deaths in hospitals were being recorded. The new figures include deaths in care homes and have been declining for several days.

Meanwhile, an intensive care chief in the Paris region has told local media that the virus was present in France on 27 December – a month before the first cases were confirmed.

Yves Cohen told broadcaster BFMTV that his team had revisited negative tests for flu and other coronaviruses on 24 patients who had been in hospital with respiratory symptoms in December and January.

“Of the 24 patients, we had one positive result for Covid-19 on 27 December when he was in hospital with us,” he said, adding that the test had been repeated several times to confirm the result.

Dr Cohen said he had reported the case to the regional health authorities and called for other negative tests from the same period to be re-examined.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionFrench firefighters are trying to teach canines to sniff out coronavirus

France is planning to lift its lockdown on 11 May, when children will return to school in phases, some businesses will reopen and people will be able to travel within 100km (60 miles) of their homes without the need for a document giving a reason for their movement.

However, on Sunday Health Minister Olivier Véran said this would depend on further falls in the number of new infections, particularly in the worst-affected areas like the Paris region and northeast France.

France also clarified that a rule requiring anyone entering the country to go into isolation for two weeks did not apply to people arriving from EU countries, the Schengen area or the UK.

What’s happening in Spain?

Spain’s death toll of 164 was the lowest for a month-and-a-half and was more than a hundred down on Saturday’s figure.

On Saturday adults were able to exercise outdoors for the first time in seven weeks. The lockdown was eased for children under 14 a week ago.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said Spain was reaping the rewards of the sacrifices made during the lockdown, one of Europe’s strictest.

On Monday masks will become compulsory on public transport and some small businesses such as hairdressers will open for individual customer appointments.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionThe lockdown has eased in Spain, but there are still time restrictions on when people can be outdoors

What about in Italy?

Italy registered the lowest daily number of coronavirus-related deaths since just after its lockdown started two months ago. Both the numbers of new infections and patients in intensive care have continued to fall.

The country is relaxing its lockdown from Monday, when Italians will be able to exercise as long as they respect rules on maintaining physical distance. They will also be able to visit relatives – but not friends – within their region.

However schools, cinemas and most shops will stay shut. Bars and restaurants are due to start allowing customers to sit at tables in June.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionThe mental health toll as Italians struggle to cope with Europe’s strictest and longest-running lockdown

Italy’s death toll stands at 28,884 – second only to the US where more than 68,000 people have died.

The UK’s death toll is 28,446 while in Spain and France 25,100 people and 24,729 people respectively have died.

The UK government is expected to announce the next steps in its response to the pandemic next Sunday.

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deaths imagined

‘So many more deaths than we could have ever imagined.’ This is how America’s largest city deals with its dead – CNN

New York (CNN)In his final moments, Ananda Mooliya reassured his wife and two sons that he was fine, though they could hear his labored breathing from the next room, over the sound of the TV.

His wife, Rajni Attavar, made soup for him. Mooliya struggled out of bed. With the help of eldest son, Amith, the 56-year-old subway station agent made his way to a kitchen chair in their Corona, Queens, home. Sweat beaded on his face. His mouth was open.
“I wiped his face,” Attavar recalled through tears. “Then I called out his name. He didn’t respond.”
She sprinkled water on his head. Amith checked his father’s weakening pulse. His younger son, Akshay Mooliya, 16, called 911. EMTs arrived and, for about 10 minutes, aided his breathing with a respiratory device.
They then covered him with a white blanket on the kitchen floor.
It was April 8 at 9:37 p.m., according to his death certificate. Immediate cause of death was listed as “Recent Influenza-Like Illness (Possible COVID-19).” Several hours would pass before his body was lifted off the floor and taken to a morgue — and nearly three weeks before his cremation, family members said.
“I was the last person in the family to see his face before he died,” Amith, 21, recalled. “I didn’t even say goodbye.”
The handling of Mooliya’s body isn’t unusual in these times.
The corononavirus death toll has overwhelmed health care workers, morgues, funeral homes, crematories and cemeteries. Body bags pile up across the city that became epicenter of the pandemic. On the day Mooliya died, there were 799 Covid-19 deaths in the state of New York, a one-day high. To date, the state has recorded more than 24,000 deaths, most of them in New York City.
Among the many ways life has changed is how America’s largest city deals with its dead.
Though the city doubled to about 2,000 its capacity to store bodies, funeral homes are still turning down cremations because they can’t hold onto the bodies. A Brooklyn cremation chamber broke down under the sheer volume of corpses. Cremations are delayed to mid May and beyond. Bodies rest in refrigerated trailers in funeral home parking lots. Burials are backed up.
“So many more deaths than we could have ever imagined,” said Joe Sherman, the fourth-generation owner of Sherman’s Flatbush Memorial Chapel in Brooklyn. “I’m doing this 43 years. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Two funeral homes take desperate measures

The grim struggle to keep up with death was highlighted on Wednesday, when four trucks with as many as 60 decomposing bodies were discovered on a busy street outside a Brooklyn funeral home. A passerby saw fluids dripping from the trucks.
The overwhelmed funeral home ran out of space for bodies, which were awaiting cremation, according to a law enforcement source. It brought in trucks for storage. At least one truck lacked refrigeration, with body bags on ice, one source said.
“It’s such a sad situation and so disrespectful to the families,” Mayor Bill de Blasio told CNN Friday. “That was an avoidable situation… There were lots of ways that the funeral home could have turned to us for help. But they stayed silent. That’s a rarity. Overwhelmingly, even with the horrible strain and the emotional strain, funeral homes have really stood by the families in the city and served them.”
The New York State Department of Health has suspended the license of the Andrew T. Cleckley Funeral Home. Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker called its actions “appalling, disrespectful to the families of the deceased, and completely unacceptable.”
CNN sought comment from the funeral home multiple times. On Wednesday, someone identifying himself as its owner declined comment.
On Thursday night, 18 bodies were found at an “overwhelmed” funeral home in New Jersey, State Police Colonel Patrick Callahan told reporters.

Mourners are forced to play a waiting game

After Mooliya’s body was picked up from the kitchen floor, his family learned that it would be nearly three weeks before the Indian immigrant’s body could be cremated.
In Hindu tradition, bodies are typically cremated a day or two after death, Amith Mooliya said. His father, a devout man who prayed before and after his subway station shifts, was cremated on April 27.
The family did not attend the cremation ceremony because of distancing guidelines.
“I lit a candle and put his photo in a frame on a table,” said his son, a chemistry major at Brooklyn College. “We prayed for his soul. That was all we could really do.”
A strained death care industry has made mourning harder.
“Every day I remember,” Attavar, 50, said of the day her husband died. “I can’t sleep. I never saw his face like that. He was the strong one. I never saw him that weak. He took care of us.”
That Mooliya was with family in the end provided some solace. The contagion has taken many others without loved ones at their side.
“At least he was not far away from us,” Attavar said. “He was home. I think that was his comfort. That he passed in the house.”

Funeral directors prioritize the living

Dan Wright, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 813, whose 500 members include funeral directors and cemetery workers, said the high number of deaths has slowed the back end of the system, the cemeteries and crematories.
“Obviously we can’t be burying people in the dark,” he said.
And social distancing has altered the way people bid loved ones farewell.
“Funerals are basically about gathering together and celebrating somebody’s life and saying goodbye,” Wright said. “These things have been impossible to do. Funerals directors … have been reduced to becoming policemen to prevent people from getting together, standing too close, hugging each other.”
Sherman, the Brooklyn funeral home owner, said protecting clients and workers is a priority — ensuring distancing and providing sufficient personal protective equipment.
“In dealing with this pandemic our main concern is the living,” he said.
There are no face-to-face meetings with grieving families. All business is handled online or over the phone.
“We don’t want people in the building,” Sherman said.
The number of funerals Sherman handles tripled in recent weeks. His business and the memorial home that shares the building with it last week had about 100 calls.
His funeral home alone has been doing about 30 deaths a week. Three weeks ago, Sherman said, he brought in a refrigerated container with space for an additional 30 bodies.
“I’m turning down cremations unless its people that have prepaid them or people I know,” he said. “Cremations are one month out here in Brooklyn. I don’t want to be storing bodies here that long.”

A cremation oven broke down because of the volume

Richard Moylan, president of Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, started as a grass cutter in 1972. Now he’s closing in on five decades there.
“The volume of burials for us all at one time is overwhelming,” he said. “The volume of cremations is something we’ve never seen.”
Cremations at Green-Wood have jumped from as many as 70 to 130 per week, Moyland said. Burials more than doubled to a dozen each day.
“And if we had the capacity we would be doing more,” he said of cremations.
“People are sending bodies out of state, out of the city. We’re booked through the middle of May when six weeks ago you could just call up and say, ‘I’m coming in tomorrow or, even sometimes, I’m coming in an hour.’ Now, sadly, you need an appointment.”
Except for burials, cremations and custodial services, all other work has stopped.
“We’re not doing any tree maintenance,” he said. “We’re not doing much lawn maintenance. We’re not doing any monument preservation. It’s all hands on deck.”
One of five cremation chambers — which burn up to 1,800 degrees for 18 hours a day — broke from overuse, Moyland said.
“When we started going longer hours the chamber’s brick wall basically just gave way,” he said.
Moylan sometimes watches burials from his office.
“We try to keep burials as close to a traditional burial as we can,” he said. “We had a Covid victim and there were our guys in Hazmat suits and the family staying on the road away from the casket. Someone said a few prayers. They got back in their cars. Then I realized there were more cars of people who didn’t come out.”

‘He worked so hard all his life’

In Corona, Queens, Rajni Attavar and her sons celebrate Mooliya’s life by telling his story. He arrived in New York in the mid-1990s from Heroor village in Karnataka, India, where he taught chemistry at a university. He managed several chain drug stores. He was a security guard and worked five years as a subway station agent.
Mooliya had two online consultations with a doctor the days before his died. His eldest son said his father was told he didn’t need to be tested. Take Tylenol and stay hydrated, he was instructed.
“He worked so hard all his life,” Attavar cried. “No vacations. He was the smartest man. He went through a lot in his life. I didn’t know it was going to end up so bad for him.”

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cases deaths

The number of flu cases and deaths in 2020 is comparable to previous years – Health Feedback

CLAIM

“ZERO flu deaths and ZERO pneumonia deaths for the first time in history”

DETAILS

Factually inaccurate: The claim states that there have been zero cases of flu in 2020, directly contradicting data generated by hospitals and clinical laboratories, which are collected and reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

KEY TAKE AWAY

The flu is a seasonal disease that begins during winter and generally peaks around February in the Northern Hemisphere. Based on statistics reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of flu cases during the 2019-2020 season have been similar to at least the previous six years, as reported by clinical laboratories that conduct the testing. The rising numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths do not reflect misidentification of flu cases and flu-related deaths, as suggested.


FULL CLAIM: “So let me get this straight … there are ZERO flu cases and ZERO pneumonia deaths for the first time in history? How is that possible?”

SUMMARY



A Facebook post recently propagated the claim that there are “ZERO flu deaths and ZERO pneumonia deaths for the first time in history”. Given the current context of the COVID-19 pandemic, this statement could be interpreted by some people to mean that flu cases and flu-related deaths are being mislabeled as COVID-19 cases and deaths in order to inflate the magnitude of the pandemic.

This claim is inaccurate: as of 27 April 2020, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported an estimated 39 to 56 million cases of flu in the U.S. during the 2019-2020 flu season. During the same period, flu accounted for 24,000 to 62,000 deaths in the country. Compared with previous years, the number of deaths during the 2019-2020 flu season is similar (see Figure 1 below). The 2017-2018 season was particularly deadly,  but the ongoing 2019-2020 flu season currently ranks second highest in terms of number of deaths. This is confirmed by other statistics provided by the U.S. CDC  including the cumulative number of hospitalizations, which represents the number of patients with laboratory-confirmed flu infections who  were admitted to a hospital. These data also clearly show that 2020 has not been spared by the flu, as the number of individuals hospitalized with flu rose steadily during the first two months of the year.

Figure 1. Cumulative number of flu-related deaths. The “week” number on the x-axis corresponds to the position of the week in the year, i.e.week 1 is the first week of a new year. The red curve represents the cumulative number of flu-related deaths for the ongoing 2019-2020 season (Source of raw data: CDC).

The global number of laboratory-confirmed flu cases in 2020 also directly contradicts the claim. The number of flu cases detected by clinical laboratories peaked between the 6th and 8th week of 2020 before decreasing (see Figure 2). This peak is expected because flu is a seasonal disease, peaking in winter and almost disappearing in the summer. Data since 1982 indicates that the number of flu cases typically peaks in February in the Northern Hemisphere. A comparison of the number of detected flu cases this year to previous flu seasons clearly shows that 2020 is absolutely comparable to previous years. Therefore, it is inaccurate to claim that there have been no flu cases in 2020.

Figure 2. Weekly detection of new flu cases. The percentage (y-axis) represents the proportion of flu tests run by clinical labs that returned positive results for flu infection. The 2019-2020 season (red curve) is comparable to previous years both in magnitude and in time of peak (Source of raw data: CDC).

Interestingly, the number of newly-detected flu cases declined much earlier in the year than previous seasons—in March 2020. This phenomenon was also observed in Singapore and is therefore not limited to the U.S. Researchers from the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health at the National University of Singapore have suggested that the prophylactic measures taken to curb the spread of SARS-CoV-2, such as masks and social distancing, have also contributed to a milder flu season[1].

In summary, clinical laboratories did record cases of flu and flu-related deaths during the 2019-2020 season. In terms of both laboratory-confirmed cases and number of deaths, the current flu season is comparable to previous years. It is therefore inaccurate to claim that there have been zero cases of flu.

While it is not explicitly stated in the Facebook post, such a claim can be interpreted by some people to mean that cases of flu and flu-related deaths have been misidentified as SARS-CoV-2 to artificially inflate the number of COVID-19 cases and related deaths. However, the data from the CDC for the 2019-2020 flu season, beginning in October 2019, demonstrates that the magnitude of the flu season has not been downplayed.

In addition, comparisons of overall mortality in 2020—that is the number of deaths from all causes—with past years demonstrates that 2020  is seeing an unusual increase in the number of deaths in most countries hit by COVID-19. This further confirms that the cases and mortality attributed to COVID-19 is not due to a mislabeling of “normal” flu cases.

REFERENCES

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