There are a lot of numbers we don't know yet about the China coronavirus that's plaguing the world right now, but there's at least one number we should know that I haven't seen reported: the excess death rate:

I have no doubt the number of deaths there now is higher than usual and that there are excess deaths, perhaps a huge number, particularly in certain regions of the north where the virus has been concentrated. But how much higher? Italy ordinarily has a particularly high rate of death from the flu, for example, which might make the "excess death" figure especially important to know. Are significant numbers of the deaths we're seeing in Italy deaths that would be taking place anyway from the flu or other illnesses we're accustomed to and which sometimes cause the death of elderly people who are already ill? And if so, how many?

One of the huge problems with COVID-19 is that so far it seems to have caused localized outbreaks that burden a health system and in particular hospital ICU resources. That in turn results in some people dying who might otherwise be saved but for the sudden influx. That is particularly frightening, and many of the strategies being brought to bear in the US are a result of trying to prevent such a calamity. But in order to know how much we need to do and what we can expect in the worst-case scenario, wouldn't figures for excess deaths in Italy be helpful?

But so far I haven't found anything written for the public discussing that issue. I realize that, since the disease only began a few months ago, we don't have figures for total excess deaths. But shouldn't we have some preliminary figures to compare to average figures per day or per week or per month during a bad flu season and during a good flu season in the localities involved?

Basically, how many people are dying now than we'd expect to be dying in a "normal" year? We can attribute the difference to the China coronavirus.

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