Thanks to Ontario Independent MPP Randy Hillier, I have come across this handy little tool created by Stats Canada in July of this year. It is a simple set of graphs that compares weekly deaths from all causes annually from 2014 to 2020 (the last week available for Canada being week 34, August 2020). This can be broken down by province or viewed as a nation. The point of looking at this data, of course, is to assess the impact COVID-19 is really having. Over 10000 Canadians are said to have died from COVID-19, so are excess deaths relatively close to this number? Let's have a look!
2020 is the dotted line, and appears to be looking pretty normal until week 12, March when 2020 deaths start to show clear excess over what would be expected. This peaked in week 17, April when about 1200 excess deaths occurred nationwide. For perspective, about 5500-6000 people die each week in Canada from all causes on average, ranging from 4500-6500 seasonally. So in week 17, about 20% more people died than expected.
In week 23, June, 2020 deaths are back in line with expectations. Over the 11 week period where excess deaths were recorded, there were a total of about 6150 deaths in excess of expectations. As of June 1, 7295 deaths were attributed to COVID-19 in Canada, more than 1000 higher than excess deaths would suggest (nearly 20% more).
What is important to remember, is that we can never know the lives that may have been saved by lack of car accidents and lack of other disease like influenza as a result of lock downs and restrictions. We also can never really know how many additional deaths there were as a result of suicide, domestic violence, substance abuse and lack of health care. We know there are certainly numbers that we should attribute to each of these measures that would mean reductions in deaths in some cases and increases in other cases. All we can do in the absence of data is assume that the reduction in deaths due to lock downs vs the increase in deaths due to lock downs would cancel one another out. This allows us to look at the current numbers assuming COVID-19 is the only mitigating factor. It isn't 100% accurate, but it's all we have, and all we will have.
At minimum, it would appear that almost 20% of COVID-19 deaths were people who died WITH COVID-19 but not FROM COVID-19. Now, let's dig a bit deeper. Starting in week 24, June, something bizarre seems to happen - there are significantly LESS deaths than expected. This deficiency in weekly deaths peaked in week 34, August, at 900 fewer deaths than expected. In the 11 week period from June through August, Canada saw 4900 fewer deaths than expected. In that same time frame, Canada tallied an additional 1900 deaths due to COVID-19. Let's do some basic math - From March through August, Canada saw just 1250 deaths in excess of expectations (6150 - 4900). In that same time frame, about 9200 deaths were attributed to COVID-19. 9200 - 1250 = 7950, or over 85% of deaths that were attributed to COVID-19 from March through August would have died anyway. Given we know that nearly this exact amount (over 80%) of deaths occurred in long term care homes, this isn't hard to envision.
My main conclusion from this data is that the reason there were over 6000 excess deaths in the 11 weeks from March through May and nearly 5000 deficient deaths in the 11 weeks from June through August is that COVID-19 most likely cut a couple months of life from around 5000 seniors living in care homes. These people would have died in June, July and August anyway, but as a result of COVID-19, ended up dying in March, April and May. Beyond that, given there were over 125000 deaths from all causes in this time frame, the 1250 excess deaths overall amounts to under 1% of total deaths. This is within the margin of variance of annual deaths to ultimately declare that Canada saw effectively ZERO excess deaths due to COVID-19 through August 2020, but it DID shift the deaths around. I don't want to undermine the deaths that did occur and the seniors that lost perhaps several months of their life as a result. I am a big picture guy as most of you are aware. I am not being callous, I just try to stick to the facts and keep emotions out of it when I am discussing these things. I believe that approximately 50% of the deaths attributed to COVID-19 are a result of seniors dying several months earlier than they otherwise would have, and the other 50% COVID-19 played no real role in the deaths, ie: they died WITH COVID-19 but not FROM it.
I will not go into as in depth an analysis on NS as the graph really does the talking, but here is the summary. About 175 people (25 daily) die each week in Nova Scotia from all causes. NS was in line with expectations until week 17, April 19-25, which saw 35 excess deaths. This is likely accounted for with the 15 COVID-19 deaths that week, as well as the 23 deaths resulting from the mass shooting. Week 18 saw 15 excess deaths. This is 50 excess deaths, of which only 25-30 are attributable to COVID-19. In week 23, there are 15 deficient deaths, week 27 sees another 15 deficient and week 30 sees 20 deficient deaths. Weeks 35 and 36 (September) see 45 deficient deaths each. 50 excess deaths in April followed by 140 deficient deaths through September. So even though 65 people died that were attributed to COVID-19, there are actually 90 fewer deaths in NS so far this year vs what was expected. Again though, you do see that excess in April (Northwood) which does suggest that some of the Northwood seniors did die slightly earlier than they may have otherwise had they not contracted COVID-19. Expected deaths for the 19 week period in question is 3325. The 90 deficient deaths amounts to about 2.7% of that total which is too high to just write off as margin of variance. You may wish to attribute that to lack of influenza and car accidents due to more strict measures taken in NS compared to other places. Ultimately though, I can easily declare that Nova Scotia also has ZERO excess deaths so far in 2020.
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