Fact check: the graph does not contain an accurate US mortality rate for 2020

Reuters fact check. REUTERS

A meme claiming that U.S. death rates in 2020 did not change by comparing recent data with previous years is misleading.

The image is titled “US Deaths Per Year” and contains figures that say it is the number of annual deaths since 2015 (here). These are: 2015 (2,712,630), 2016 (2,744,248), 2017 (2,813,503), 2018 (2,839,205), 2019 (2,900,689). For 2020, the image says it took data to 16 November and listed 2,487,350 total deaths. It then makes a full year projection of 2,818,527.

This table of numbers has since been shared on social media, claiming that it is proof that the US death toll in 2020 is equal to other years – even with the rise of COVID-19. But this is not an accurate assumption because it uses a misconception of the available data. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates hundreds of thousands of excess deaths in 2020 (here).

First, the numbers listed from 2015 to 2018 are official and have been released by the CDC (here, here, here, here). However, the final numbers for 2019 have not yet been announced, and it is unclear where the image creator took the 2,900,689 figure from. This is the same for the 2020 projection.

Meanwhile, the 2020 figure to 16 November is also an official figure released by the CDC (pdf here), but it is not yet an accurate representation of how many people died in 2020. The table only starts week ends on 1 February 2020 and has another six weeks to sign up between 16 November and the end of the year. The latest weekly data in the November 16 chart also appears to have a much lower mortality rate than previous weeks, which according to the CDC is due to a backlog in reporting. This delay can be between one and eight weeks or longer, and can be indicated by the more than 35,000 deaths at the final figure at the publication on the same list in the final figure, which is on 25 Nov. (here), is released, to compare. .

The CDC released the analysis of mortality rates between 26 January and 3 October in mid-October and revealed that by this time there were an estimated 299,028 excess deaths in 2020 (here, datawrapper.dwcdn.net/LWq2f/6/). This figure states that 198,081 deaths (66%) were presumably due to COVID-19 – although the department also noted that estimates could be made about the overall impact of the pandemic. A similar study by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), which looked at data between March and July, also found that U.S. deaths increased by 20% during this period. COVID-19 is attributed to 67% of this surplus (here).


Misleading. The data used for 2020 do not take into account all the deaths that occurred in the year, due to the time yet to expire, the date the scores were introduced, and due to a backlog in the reporting figures. In 2020, hundreds of thousands of excess deaths are estimated.

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