The US has suffered nearly 300,000 more deaths than usual in more than two years of the pandemic that cannot be attributed to Covid, with researchers blaming lockdowns and delays to healthcare.
Latest official data shows there were 1.26million excess deaths between February 2020 and the end of 2022, of which around 295,000 did not have Covid as their main cause of death on their death certificates.
These are thought to be mostly made up of surges in deaths from cancer, heart disease, drug overdoses and firearms during the pandemic, however, a full analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is still likely weeks away.
Dr Coady Wing, a health policy expert from Indiana University, told DailyMail.com that these pandemic mandates kept people who needed care the most away from the doctor’s office – potentially costing thousands of lives.
The official death toll due to Covid-19 per the CDC is nearly 1.1 million, but that does not include associated deaths such as fatal overdoses during lockdowns
The United States (yellow) has suffered a larger increase in deaths than many other nations, including Sweden (blue), which famously opted against Covid lockdown measures. The country has suffered a 14 percent increase in deaths over the past three years when compared to the average number of expected deaths calculated from previous years. For comparison, Sweden recorded a five percent increase, while the UK (green) had a 10 percent jump
‘It’s a hard question to decide how many lives were saved by the shutdowns themselves,’ Dr Wing told DailyMail.com.
‘What we’re finding is that some of the things people did to avoid Covid risk, one of those things was to cut down of regular health care utilization, and that had health consequences.’
As a result, they either had their condition deteriorate or had diseases that could have been caught instead go unnoticed until they fell more ill.
He also noted that those most likely to cancel appointments were likely the sickest – further exacerbating their health issues. ‘Cutting back care for Covid sensitive groups was bad for their health,’ Dr Wing continued.
Data from nearly every country that instituted lockdowns in Spring 2020 shows a stark increase in deaths from other causes such as heart disease, cancer, and other common ailments.
Leading experts in the UK have suggested that up to 3,000 Britons are dying each week because of the disruptions to everyday life caused by the country’s strict lockdowns, for example. The nation logged 2,837 excess deaths during the week ending on January 13, with only five percent being attributable to Covid.
Some experts believe the recent increase in other causes of death around Britain would have been avoided without the strict lockdowns.
Dr Coady Wing (pictured), a health policy expert from Indiana University, said it is hard to determine how many lives the lockdown actually saved
According to the CDC, the United States has suffered 1,265,751 excess deaths between February 1, 2020 and December 31, 2022.
Unlike the UK and European countries, the US never entered a national lockdown; instead, the federal government left pandemic decisions to state, county and city-level officials.
While some states, such as California and New York, enacted strict mandates, others, such as Florida and Texas, avoided state-level orders altogether.
Even after many of these orders were dropped, many clinics shifted primarily to telehealth services rather than in-person doctor visits to keep people from healthcare and prevent the virus from spreading among the most vulnerable.
Both out of fear of the virus and to avoid over-burdening healthcare systems, many Americans also decided to put off visits to the doctor themselves. This combined to cause a surge of deaths during the pandemic caused by factors outside of the virus.
The CDC reports a five percent rise in cancer deaths in 2020, and a 2021 study found that cancer cases are now being detected later than usual in America – increasing the mortality risk of each case.
A study published last year by researchers at the Dartmouth Institute, in New Hampshire, found a 22 percent increase in Alzheimer’s death in the pandemic’s first year.
In a 2022 study, CDC researchers found that heart disease deaths increased by four percent in 2020, representing ‘about five years of lost progress’ in the fight against America’s leading killer, agency researchers wrote.
Deaths from drug overdoses increased too, with the nation recording a record 108,000 overdose fatalities in 2021. This is a 15 percent increase from the previous all-time high count in 2020.
While disruptions to medical treatment could play a role in these deaths, the prevalence of highly potent – and deadly – fentanyl is likely partially responsible for the surge as well.
In October, Dr Engy Ziedan, an economist from Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, and Dr Wing published research looking into how these lockdowns impacted death figures.
They found that anywhere from 25 to 33 percent of non-Covid deaths during the first two months of the pandemic were caused by missed appointments. This is because people missed surgeries, screenings and other necessary treatments.
California has suffered the most excess deaths from reasons other than Covid despite its strict pandemic lockdown and mask orders
The US recorded more excess deaths than much of western Europe, including Sweden, despite the country’s lockdown orders early in the COVID-19 pandemic
Dr Steve Hanke (pictured), an economist at Johns Hopkins, found that lockdowns only saved around 10,000 lives across the US and Europe
Dr Steve Hanke, an economist at the Baltimore, Maryland, school, found the strict Covid protocols in early 2020 saved 10,000 lives across the US and Europe.
He led research into the true impact of lockdowns alongside researchers from Sweden and Denmark, finding the devastating policies only reduced Covid mortality 0.1 percent.
‘The lockdown study found that lockdowns in the spring of 2020 had a negligible effect on Covid mortality,’ Dr Hanke told DailyMail.com.
According to a 2022 analysis led by Johns Hopkins University researchers, shuttering businesses also did little to prevent deaths.
‘Our meta-analysis includes studies that employ two different methods. Depending on the method employed, lockdowns resulted in between 6,000 and 23,000 deaths avoided in Europe; whereas, there are approximately 72,000 flu deaths in Europe each year.’
In California, major cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco repeatedly instituted mask orders, curfews and other lockdown measures throughout the pandemic. The Golden State recorded 33,730, the most of any state by a large margin.
Florida Gov Ron DeSantis, on the other hand, vigorously opposed Covid measures and even banned some vaccine checks and mask orders in his state.
Despite the more lax Covid policies, Florida recorded 20,000 non-Covid excess deaths, far less than California.
America has suffered a larger increase in cumulative deaths than many of its peers.
As of November 27, the most recent data available from OurWorldInData, America had suffered 14 percent more deaths than expected since January 1.
This is higher than the UK (ten percent more deaths than expected) and Spain (11 percent), both countries that were more friendly to lockdowns than the US.
It is also higher than Sweden (five percent), a nation that famously opted against implementing strict Covid orders when the pandemic first began.
While whether the lockdowns may have saved lives is still up for debate, experts point out the devastation the policy had on economies worldwide.
‘The lockdowns were an obvious economic wrecking ball,’ Dr Hanke said.
‘Following lockdowns, GDP plummeted and bankruptcies increased. Excess deaths resulting from mortal conditions going undiagnosed and untreated increased.
‘Children lost face-to-face learning which slowed down their accumulation of skills and reduced productivity. The World Health Organization estimates a 25 percent increase in anxiety disorders during the first year of the pandemic.
‘Large segments of national workforces left their employment, never to return.’
The International Monetary Fund estimated a three percent drop in global GDP caused by lockdowns.
The 2009 Global Financial Crisis, known as one of the worst economic periods in generations, only recorded a 0.1 percent drop for comparison.
Of the nearly 300,000 excess non-Covid deaths, more than 10 percent occurred in California.
The Golden State recorded 33,730, the most of any state by a large margin. The Democrat-run state had strict lockdowns and mask orders that lingered for months in major metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles and San Francisco.