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Opinion: Measuring excess mortality gives a clearer picture of the pandemic’s true burden

How best to represent the true toll of the Covid-19 pandemic on human lives is an urgent matter. Though loss of life represents the clearest indicator, limited testing, inconsistencies in assigning the cause of death, and even political influence are creating uncertainty over how deaths are being counted and attributed (or not) to Covid-19.

It’s simple, really: Limited testing gives a limited picture of confirmed Covid-19 cases and deaths. While many deaths show fairly clear evidence of Covid-19 infection even without testing (and so may be tallied as “suspected” Covid-19 deaths), even adding confirmed and suspected deaths together risks a significant undercount of the true magnitude of the epidemic’s toll.

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