From CNN

Dr. Tom Frieden, the former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, laid out "10 plain truths" about Covid-19 on Wednesday as he spoke at a House Appropriations Committee hearing on the pandemic response. [...]

"Even now with deaths decreasing substantially, there are twice as many deaths from Covid-19 in New York City as there are on a usual day from all other causes combined," Frieden said.

Without getting into in-depth debates about how correctly those deaths are attributed to Covid-19, is what Frieden says correct, as far as the death statistics that have been recorded? There's no doubt excess mortality in NYC, as there is in similarly badly hit areas e.g. in Italy, but is the twice as many deaths attributed to Covid-19 as all other causes combined (at other times) true for NYC?

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    Worth adding the specific date of the interview (or his datum point if different) to the question, considering the fluidity of the situation. I've seen some very misleading figures quoted that were only a few days out of date. Commented May 7, 2020 at 17:58

2 Answers 2


According to the New York Times, weekly deaths peaked around 7,000 in late March, whereas the average death rate was around 1,000. Reported COVID deaths for the period March 11-May 2 were around 18,000, whereas total deaths were around 23,000, 297% above normal. And, as can be seen from the chart, deaths still remain around 3,000.

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    I wonder if, say around September or October, death rates will actually be lower than normal, because so many COVID deaths are related to co-morbidities that would have proved fatal in the near future. Commented May 7, 2020 at 15:43
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    @AskAboutMonica -- Most people over a certain age have what are classified as co-morbidities. Hypertension for example is very prevalent in the elderly and is counted as co-morbidity. Most people who lose their lives to COVID-19 are losing years from their expected life spans, rather than months.
    – antlersoft
    Commented May 7, 2020 at 16:27
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    And antlersoft is correct, that for most age groups the loss of life-time (from Covid-19) is rather substantial. economist.com/graphic-detail/2020/05/02/… Commented May 7, 2020 at 18:14
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    @AskAboutMonica some useful context, being over 65 and male are two risk factors. All told males who make it to 65 (including the >65% who have hypertension, 27% who have diabetes) are expected to live another 18 years. Males who make it to 90 are expected to live another 4.1 years. cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr68/nvsr68_07-508.pdf
    – De Novo
    Commented May 7, 2020 at 18:21
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    From what I've heard, it is possible that death rates will be below average in fall, but for a different reason: the measures we are taking against Corona (COVID-19) will also negatively impact the possibility of other viruses, such as influenza (flu) and rhinovirus (common cold), to spread. That is, provided we keep social distancing ourselves and don't let COVID re-ignite.
    – CompuChip
    Commented May 8, 2020 at 7:32

There is a study from the Yale School of public health that attempted to study this carefully, but their analysis was restricted to March through April 4. Here is a newspaper article describing the study.

The basic answer to your question is "probably yes," but the situation is somewhat cloudy. The study found that excess deaths were about double the number recorded as covid. Many/most of these may actually be deaths due to covid that weren't recorded as such, but many may also be deaths of people who were afraid to go to the hospital, or who couldn't get appropriate care because hospitals were trying to clear the decks for covid patients. They may therefore have died from things like appendicitis or cancer that wasn't properly treated. For example, there are projections that the cancer death rate in England could go up 20% because people aren't getting proper care. There has been an unusually low number of people showing up in ERs with heart attacks, strokes, and other problems. This is not believed to be because people aren't having strokes. It's probably that they're having strokes but staying home, and either living or dying.

An additional complicating factor is that because people are staying home, they may not be dying as often from causes such as gunshots or traffic accidents.

For this reason, it is not a valid methodology just to subtract deaths from time-averaged deaths and conclude that you have measured the number of deaths from covid, as in the graph shown in the answer by Daniel R Hicks. That method of analyzing the data may overestimate deaths from covid, possibly by some fairly big percentage. However, the large spike shown in that graph (from a time period later than the one covered by the Yale study) is, I would think, almost certainly an indication that at least for some short time in NYC, the true covid death rate was a multiple of the normal death rate.

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    Arguably these are really deaths by covid. Not by the virus itself, but by the way it affected the medical system and society.
    – user000001
    Commented May 8, 2020 at 6:22
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    Patients with heart attacks aren't showing up in ERs because it was removed from EMT protocol to bring them: nbcnewyork.com/news/coronavirus/… Transport criteria at the height of the epidemic included pronouncing on scene for basically any non-traumatic cardiac arrest where return of pulse couldn't be achieved in field.
    – Tiercelet
    Commented May 8, 2020 at 13:34
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    @user000001 exactly, it's little different than a war where excess deaths is also the commonly used statistic. the only reasonable explanation for such a huge spike in deaths is the coronavirus, through both direct and indirect effects. Contrary to this answer, this is a perfectly reasonable methodology, though obviously people trying to minimize the virus' impact will disagree.
    – eps
    Commented May 8, 2020 at 16:05
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    Though arguably having to stay home with family could actually lead to an increase in gunshot (and knife, blunt instrument, poison &c) deaths, since most murder victims have social or romantic relationships with the people that killed them: bjs.gov/content/pub/press/MILUC88.PR
    – jamesqf
    Commented May 8, 2020 at 16:14
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    @BenCrowell you're correct about cardiac arrest and heart attacks not being the same thing, but your summary of what the EMTs were/are being told is wrong. They were trying to revive people, but if they couldn't do it in the field, they weren't bringing them to the hospital after.
    – mbrig
    Commented May 8, 2020 at 20:22

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