Much to my blown out brain’s surprise, Oregon today fixed the problem with inappropriate daily death reports.

As I previously explained, Oregon, like every state, publishes a daily body count. Necessarily, deaths are a lagging indicator – each day’s report is account of death reports received in the past 24 hours. The actual death may have been days, weeks or months later. It often takes considerable time for the death report record to make its way to the state office.

This means that when you hear a daily report of “54 deaths” – it does not mean 54 deaths occurred yesterday or even recently. It means only that they processed 54, typically somewhat old, death reports in the past 24 hours.

They were always behind but due to low death numbers, the problem was not noticeable. From Apr – mid-Nov, the red and green lines in this chart track closely.

By mid-Nov, as deaths increased, the reported deaths (green) fell behind and diverged greatly from actual deaths (red).

Later, they caught up by “batching” old deaths into current daily death counts. The effect was that now, daily death count numbers skyrocketed as they included deaths from days, weeks and sometimes months ago.

The media and the public see the Orange line (the daily reports) and think deaths are increasing rapidly. But in reality, deaths peaked in late Nov/early Dec as shown by the red line (which, because it is a 7-day smoothing, time shifts slightly to the right of reality).

Today, public health announced it would no longer release detailed death data. Instead, they have added a new chart that shows the correct death trend as I had suggested to them!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Their chart confirms that peak deaths – so far – occurred in late Nov/early Dec.

It is likely this time delayed death reporting activity occurs in many if not most states – and that time delayed death report feeds into national level death curves. (I know that Oregon’s time shifted death curve appears in several online Covid trackers so this assumption is reasonable.) For this reason, I suspect that 40% or so of the “peak deaths” being reported now by the CDC nationwide are deaths that occurred in December. I hypothesis that actual peak in deaths likely occurred about 4 or more week ago, nationwide. News headlines today that “The Virus will kill thousands more” are misleading – it is likely that 40+% of those who are yet to be reported as dying, have already died in the past 4+ weeks. It’s the report of their death that has not yet shown up.

Really glad to see this update to their web site! Yay!

Remember, I am an idiot with no health care experience. I make observations and ask very stupid questions.

(I initially wrote a short post saying they were hiding the data as they announced they would no longer publish the detailed death data in the daily report. I erred in writing that post and quickly deleted it.. Earlier this afternoon I experienced a “migraine with aura” or visual migraine and have not yet fully recovered from that. Having problems as I write this, in fact. I should not be near the keyboard when that happens. Lesson learned.)

By EdwardM

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