COVID-19 deaths vs. other common causes (in America)

Business Insider compiled data from the COVID Tracking Project, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the US Census Bureau to show how COVID-19 deaths over time compare with other common causes of death in the US: heart disease, cancer, bad flu seasons, and car crashes.

The number of weekly COVID-19 deaths in America has recently surpassed the 2018 average weekly death rates for heart disease (now the second most common cause of death) and cancer (now in third place).

As a kid in school, I expected scientists to be able to provide the one and only correct answer, because that’s how science textbooks and science tests treated the scientific knowledge we were taught.

But in the real world, the scientific method is much messier than that. Experts disagree with each other without one of them being part of a secret plot to take away your rights. As researchers compare and synthesize their partial understandings, provisional conclusions and best practices can develop over time (as we have seen in the shifting and not-unanimous advice about the value of wearing masks in public and the right length of time we should self-isolate).

The CDC is reporting “provisional death counts,” with the caveat that “it can take several weeks for death records to be submitted to National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), processed, coded, and tabulated. Therefore, the data shown on this page may be incomplete, and will likely not include all deaths that occurred during a given time period, especially for the more recent time periods.”

The CDC cautions that death cases may be under-reported, because people who die without being tested “may be misclassified as pneumonia or influenza deaths.”