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By late May 2020, more than 100 000 individuals in the US died of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).1 News reports lamented the number, comparing it to the capacity of a large football stadium or a small town and noting its similarity to the number of US soldiers killed in World War I or in the Korean and Vietnam wars combined.2
Death seems like it should be an accurate measure of the pandemic’s evolution and effects—the worst outcome, an unequivocal outcome. However, the number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 in official reports is likely an underestimate of deaths caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). In addition, the statistic does not incorporate deaths indirectly attributable to the virus and the measures used to contain it.
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Zylke JW, Bauchner H. Mortality and Morbidity: The Measure of a Pandemic. JAMA. 2020;324(5):458–459. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.11761
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