CDC: San Diego County Deaths from COVID Higher than Number Reported

by on May 20, 2020 · 6 comments

in Health, San Diego

Experts are confident that the numbers of deaths from COVID-19 are higher than reported; death rate 10% higher than average

By Mari Payton, Dorian Hargrove, Tom Jones and Jay Yoo / 7SanDiego / May 19, 2020

Data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) indicates the death rate since COVID-19 arrived in San Diego County is far higher than in previous years. The data provides a hint that the deaths for COVID-19 are likely far higher than the 209 confirmed COVID-19 deaths in San Diego County.

And while the numbers from the CDC do not reveal the cause of death, nor do they exclude those who died in San Diego County who live elsewhere, the numbers are far higher than what has been recorded in years prior using the same metric.

From 2015 through 2018, an average of 5,413 people died in San Diego County from February 1 through May 1, according to the CDC (LINK). This year, the agency reported 5,999 people died during the same time frame.

The CDC numbers do not specify whether COVID-19 played a factor in any of the reported deaths, for example, if a person died because they declined to seek medical attention out of fear of contracting coronavirus.

A county spokesperson cautioned using the CDC numbers because the state and federal governments use different formulas to compute deaths in addition to the processing time for death certificates to be issued. The spokesperson, however, did confirm that the number of deaths in April, 1,988, is nearly 250 deaths higher than in the past five years.

“April now has a preliminary death count of 1,988 which is 248 deaths above what the average number of deaths for April was between 2015-2019,” said the spokesperson. “We do expect some variation in the number of deaths when examined by month due to seasonality in certain causes of death, in particular influenza. We also expect the number of deaths to increase annually due to demographic factors including aging of the population and increases in the size of the population. We will continue to monitor this data as part of our normal surveillance activities.”

Yet, while the federal death data may decrease in the coming months, experts are confident that the numbers of deaths from COVID-19 are higher than reported.

“There’s no doubt that we’ve undercounted deaths associated with COVID-19,” says Dr. Matthew Boulton, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan and the Editor-In-Chief of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. “Across the board, there’s a general consensus amongst infectious disease epidemiologists, that we are undercounting cases and we’re undercounting deaths.”

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

OB Joe May 20, 2020 at 1:08 pm

OB Joe calling Tyler! Tyler, our eternal optimist – what do you say about this piece of news?


Tyler May 22, 2020 at 11:11 am

Ha. For the record – I’m by no means an eternal optimist (although I do love some positivity!). I’m simply someone who works in data and likes to remove emotion when looking at numbers, as emotion is what usually makes people bend data to their argument. The current trend of data has me optimistic, but that doesn’t mean what did happen hasn’t been horrific or well managed (particularly on a federal level).

I would say both the county spokesperson and Dr. Boulton are correct here. We’re bound to see increased deaths as the increasing aging population and population total as a whole. At the same time I’m not sure how deep your head would need to be in the sand to think we’ve accurately counted COVID-related deaths. And when you take into a account the fact that stay-at-home orders have likely lowered traffic-related deaths as well as other potential diseases that can cause death, then the share of that 2020 total being COVID-related is likely quite a bit.

It’s a damn shame the Federal Gov’t didn’t act sooner, or we’d be seeing lower numbers by sizable amounts since we could have delayed or mitigated the exponential explosion. And it’s a shame all of this data from a Federal, State, and Local level is all decentralized using different methods of measurement – it sows chaotic analyses. All we can do now is focus on the short-term trends, which are looking far better than March/April.


Sjirk Zijlstra May 20, 2020 at 1:33 pm

I like to know what the total death toll per week or per month in San Diego County is and how many of those deaths are caused by the Covid-19 virus, from January 1 2020 to date, a prompt response is greatly appreciated, regards,

Sjirk Zijlstra


Keith M May 20, 2020 at 4:34 pm

Who at NBC made that graph? Someone who doesn’t understand numbers or charts.

Line 1 to line 2 goes up by 36.
Line 2 to line 3 goes up by 3.
Line 3 to line 4 goes up by 524.
The distance between lines is the same.

Is it any wonder no one can keep up?


Frank Gormlie May 22, 2020 at 10:26 am

Yeah, Keith, there’s something hinky about that chart. If drawn to true scale – it would stand out much more stark.


Tyler May 22, 2020 at 10:59 am

For real. This is some top quality Chart Criming right here!


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