Researchers are finding growing evidence that the Covid-19 pandemic’s deadly reach is stretching far beyond people who died from coronavirus infections.
From Alzheimer’s disease deaths to fatal heart attacks, federal data show deaths in 2020 have exceeded those of previous years in numerous categories. Doctors and health researchers say the fatalities reflect the ways the pandemic has amplified stress and financial strain while causing many people to avoid hospitals for fear of infections.
“For a long period of time there was a pretty dramatic drop-off in ER visits, elective-surgery screenings, things that Americans do all the time to keep themselves healthy,” said Tom Inglesby, who directs the Center for Health Security at Johns Hopkins University.
The effects are piling up. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has tracked thousands of deaths this year beyond expected levels for conditions that also include hypertension, strokes and diabetes. Physicians say the surge was especially notable in the spring, when the pandemic hit New York and other parts of the Northeast hard.
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Some of these additional deaths were probably caused by Covid-19 but not recorded as such on death certificates, but others likely represent indirect fallout from the pandemic, said Robert Anderson, chief of the mortality-statistics branch at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.
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