Opinion | There Are Still Many More Americans Dying Than There Should Be

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By David Wallace-Wells

Opinion Writer

About 1.1 million Americans have officially died from Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic, a number that may be familiar by now. But here’s a less familiar one: According to one tabulation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 300,000 additional Americans have died over the last three years whom we would not have expected to in more normal times.

“Excess mortality” uses historical and demographic trends to estimate “expected” deaths in a population. Demographers and epidemiologists and all the rest of us can use that baseline to measure surprises: an especially bad flu season, for instance, or a novel coronavirus causing a pandemic.

Over the last three years, the country’s large excess mortality has been mostly attributed to Covid-19. But perhaps a quarter of the total, and at times a larger share than that, has been chalked up to other causes. I’ve come to think of this gap as our “excess excess mortality” — how much more extra and unexpected death the country has experienced during the pandemic than we have recognized as the direct result of infection.

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