Reporting out of proportion

The Financial Times reports that «in many countries, these excess deaths exceed reported numbers of Covid-19 deaths by large margins» and shows graphs with peaks ways above the normal. However, putting this in proper context, changes the picture entirely.

I checked the data for Switzerland where FT states that the excess mortality is 27% above normal.

Screenshot from 2020-05-13 11-30-12

Screenshot of Financial Times graph depicting excess deaths of COVID-19

To put this data in perspective, we look at the graphs from the Federal Statistical Office depicting total deaths for the years 2020 and 2015.

2020.swiss.death

 

gr-d-14.03.04wr_2015-computed_thumbnail

An overlay using GIMP gives us this graph.

diff.swiss.deaths

  • Mortality in the COVID year 2020 was lower than in 2015 (1054 vs, 1322).
  • Only one short peak with more than 1600 dead exceeds the year 2015
  • We do have excess deaths compared to the average.
  • We do not have an excess compared to regular 5-year peaks.
  • We do only have a few % of excess mortality over the entire year (if it stays)

In other words: we have a classical peak that occurs during a strong influenza wave. Such peaks are a normal phenomenon every few years:

EX4z3mwWkAALu5D

The regularity of the «excesses». Every few years a peak.

Conclusion

Using weekly excess mortality instead of the excess mortality over the entire year is misleading. Every few years there are «excesses» as we can see in the graph above.  This is a normal pattern. For a single week, we can measure an excess of 27%, 61% or even 451% above average but just a few weeks later the numbers come down. Over the year there will only be a marginal increase of a few percentages, e.g. in 2015 the total number of deaths was only 5.4% higher than in 2014 or 4.4% higher than in 2016. In a graph, the change in mortality rate is hardly visible.

Media reporting is in the full sense of the word out of proportion.

 

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