Excess Mortality During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Philadelphia

Am J Public Health. 2021 Jun 10:e1-e6. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2021.306285. Online ahead of print.


Objectives. To estimate excess all-cause mortality in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, during the COVID-19 pandemic and understand the distribution of excess mortality in the population. Methods. With a Poisson model trained on recent historical data from the Pennsylvania vital registration system, we estimated expected weekly mortality in 2020. We compared these estimates with observed mortality to estimate excess mortality. We further examined the distribution of excess mortality by age, sex, and race/ethnicity. Results. There were an estimated 3550 excess deaths between March 22, 2020, and January 2, 2021, a 32% increase above expectations. Only 77% of excess deaths (n=2725) were attributed to COVID-19 on the death certificate. Excess mortality was disproportionately high among older adults and people of color. Sex differences varied by race/ethnicity. Conclusions. Excess deaths during the pandemic were not fully explained by COVID-19 mortality; official counts significantly undercount the true death toll. Far from being a great equalizer, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated preexisting disparities in mortality by race/ethnicity. Public Health Implications. Mortality data must be disaggregated by age, sex, and race/ethnicity to accurately understand disparities among groups. (Am J Public Health. Published online ahead of print June 10, 2021: e1-e6. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2021.306285).

PMID:34111937 | DOI:10.2105/AJPH.2021.306285