VCU Study Finds 30,000 “Spillover” Deaths from COVID-19 Epidemic

by James A. Bacon

In March and April this year, the COVID-19 epidemic resulted in approximately 87,000 more deaths in the United States than the average for those months, concludes a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. About 65% were directly attributable to the virus. The other 35% was due to spillover effects from the epidemic.

Some “excess” deaths may reflect under-reporting of COVID-19 cases, and some might involve patients who died from related complications, such as heart disease, that were listed as the cause of death rather than COVID-19, says lead author Steven Woolf, director emeritus of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Center on Society and Health, based on a study by VCU and Yale University researchers.

“A third possibility, the one we’re quite concerned about, is indirect mortality — deaths caused by the response to the pandemic,” Woolf said. “People who never had the virus may have died from other causes because of the spillover effects of the pandemic, such as delayed medical care, economic hardship or emotional distress.”

VCU News summarizes key findings:

Woolf said he and his team suspect that some of these were indirect deaths from the pandemic that occurred among people with acute emergencies, such as a heart attack or stroke, who may have been afraid to go to a hospital for fear of getting the virus. Those who did seek emergency care, particularly in the areas hardest hit by the virus, may not have been able to get the treatment they needed, such as ventilator support, if the hospital was overwhelmed by the surge. …

“We can’t forget about mental health,” Woolf said. “A number of people struggling with depression, addiction and very difficult economic conditions caused by lockdowns may have become increasingly desperate, and some may have died by suicide. People addicted to opioids and other drugs may have overdosed. All told, what we’re seeing is a death count well beyond what we would normally expect for this time of year, and it’s only partially explained by COVID-19.”

Added Dr. David Lanning, interim chief medical officer at VCU Medical Center:

There’s no question that many people avoided hospital care, preventive care, out-patient care, any contact with any healthcare facility, and sometimes even their healthcare provider because of fear of COVID. And that had disastrous consequences in that people didn’t get the acute care they needed, and didn’t get a lot of preventive care.

These charts show the spike in excess deaths attributed to major killers like heart disease, diabetes, cerebrovascular disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Image credit: JAMA Network

You can read a summary of the study and its methodology here.

Bacon’s bottom line: Neither Woolf nor Lanning discussed the politically sensitive issue of why so many people were so terrified of the COVID-19 that they failed to seek treatment for their ailments. One might mention the mandated shutdown of all “elective” procedures ordered by many governors, including Ralph Northam here in Virginia. One might also observe that nonstop media coverage bordering on the hysterical also fueled fears of a deadly, out-of-control disease.

Whatever the reasons for the failure of thousands of patients to seek treatment for non-COVID illnesses, this study represents the first serious effort to document the number of “excess” deaths. The study drives home a point made many times by multiple authors on this blog: The cost of the emergency shutdown cannot be measured by lost jobs and lost economic activity alone — it must be measured by deaths not counted in the daily COVID-19 death county. For every two people who died from the virus, by the VCU study’s reckoning, one has died from spillover effects of the epidemic.

The media’s monomaniacal focus on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and even COVID-19 deaths has contributed to the death of tens of thousands. Don’t expect the mainstream media to acknowledge its complicity in this catastrophe, though. Being a member of the hit-and-run media means never having to say you’re sorry.

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16 responses to “VCU Study Finds 30,000 “Spillover” Deaths from COVID-19 Epidemic”

  1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    Likely the number is far higher, given the enormous toll taken on people during and by reason of the shutdown. Many of these casualties will never never be known, and/or will be manifest in the future, including the far distant future.

  2. LarrytheG Avatar

    I suppose there are differing views about this but one of the main reasons people do not seek health care is they do not have health insurance and/or have lost their job.

    I’m not agreeing with the idea the media did this. For one thing – this study was for March/April but for another – there are more media than the MSM and in fact other media has promoted the idea that COVID19 is a hoax and only kills older people.

    So we demanded that we “open up” – and look at what has happened. All those folks in Bars and the beaches etc… they were not freaked out from the media, right?

    If the big bad MSM is so bad – then what explains all these folks who refuse to wear masks and hang out in bars…. etc.??

    I guess only the ones that got freaked out by the MSG really died, eh?

  3. UpAgnstTheWall Avatar

    Ah, the old mental health ploy. A sure sign that we’re dealing with snowflakes…
    -James Bacon, less than twelve hours ago

    It’s not the hypocrisy that gets me, it’s the velocity.

  4. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    The big bad media? How about the big bad xenophobic, racist,sexist, sick president .Trump? Does not excited st in Bacon World

    1. Please, Peter, go ahead and make the case that Trump has preyed on peoples’ fears by magnifying the dangers of COVID-19. I’d like to see you make that argument. Perhaps I’m missing something.

    2. James Wyatt Whitehead V Avatar
      James Wyatt Whitehead V

      I heard E.W. Jackson on the radio today. He claims that 30% of the black vote nationwide will go for Trump. If that is true a second term is a lock.

      1. Steve Haner Avatar
        Steve Haner

        He thought he’d be Light Governor, too…..didn’t happen.

        1. James Wyatt Whitehead V Avatar
          James Wyatt Whitehead V

          Jackson lost to Northam! Still he did gather nearly a million votes. I like his radio show. When I am driving south I can usually find his show broadcasting in the Richmond/Petersburg area.

      2. TooManyTaxes Avatar

        I saw a poll where Kanye West is polling 2% nationally. He isn’t Trump and he’s not deep in to dementia like Biden is.

  5. LarrytheG Avatar

    Apparently only the dumbass progressives get freaked out by the MSM, the ones who won’t wear masks, etc… doesn’t bother them a bit or maybe if they get the virus it scares the bejesus out of them and they just hide under their beds til they expire…

    Anyhow, no matter how you cut it – it’s progressives and the MSM fault.


    This whole mess is their fault. Right?

    I wonder if it works this way in other countries… Do they also have MSM that freaks out people?

  6. “People who never had the virus may have died from other causes because of the spillover effects of the pandemic, such as delayed medical care, economic hardship or emotional distress.”

    One thing Virginia did right is hindsight was not closing the ABC stores. In Pennsylvania they did close down the booze stores, and serious alcohol withdrawal effects are certainly possible. Not me but someone I know. So yes, stress in many forms. How about the auto speeders and crashes?

  7. LarrytheG Avatar

    Is this an America-only thing or is it happening in other countries also?

  8. A friend in California told me last night about someone she knows who was scheduled for a quadruple bypass, but they wouldn’t admit him for surgery until they got the COVID test results. It took 12 days. Fortunately, the results were negative and he got the surgery. Makes me wonder how many others haven’t survived such waits.

    And then, stress has real health effects. I looked at the Dartmouth Life Change Index to see how many items might be related to COVID. (this is not the full list) I think it would be pretty easy to get to 150 for a lot of people, and anyone with a direct COVID connection or loss, it could go a lot higher.

    Life Change Units — Likelihood Of Illness In Near Future
    300+ about 80 percent
    150-299 about 50 percent
    less than 150 about 30 percent

    Death of Spouse 100
    Death of Close Family Member 63
    Personal injury or illness 53
    Change in health of family member 44
    Business readjustment 39
    Change in financial state 38
    Death of close friend 37
    Change to a different line of work 36
    Change in responsibilities at work 29
    Spouse begins or stops work 29
    Begin or end school 26
    Change in living conditions 25
    Revisions of personal habits 24
    Change in work hours or conditions 20
    Change in schools 20
    Change in recreations 19
    Change in church activities 19
    Change in social activities 19
    Change in sleeping habits 16
    Change in number of family get together 15
    Change in eating habits 15

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      12 days – that’s a pretty big gap … one assumes they isolated but that’s enough time for contacts to happen.

      why is it taking 12 days to get a test when we’re told we’re doing too much testing?

      I’ve seen that stress index and I believe it… even before COVID19 !

  9. MAdams Avatar

    Those who perished as a result are what is known as unintended consequences.

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