The Perfect Enemy | Three years of COVID-19 in Connecticut has led to more than 12000 deaths - CT Insider
April 11, 2024

Three years of COVID-19 in Connecticut has led to more than 12000 deaths – CT Insider

Three years of COVID-19 in Connecticut has led to more than 12000 deaths  CT Insider

Over the past three years, COVID-19 has meant economic crisis, societal disruption, increased disability, instability in the health care system, learning loss in schools and so much more.

But as much as anything, in Connecticut and elsewhere, it has meant a previously unimaginable amount of death from viral illness.

As of last week, Connecticut has recorded 12,187 COVID-19 deaths, equivalent to about one in every 300 people who lived in the state when the pandemic began three years ago Wednesday. Though deaths have slowed at times, they have never stopped, and even today Connecticut continues to record dozens per week.

How to conceptualize 12,187? It’s greater than the number of minutes in a week. It’s greater than the number of miles between Hartford and Sydney, Australia. It’s greater than the populations of Weston, Old Saybrook, Woodbridge and about 80 other Connecticut towns.

And, of course, for the people whose loved ones have died of COVID, that number represents many mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, wives, husbands, friends, coworkers and grandparents lost to a horrible disease.

On the third anniversary of the pandemic in Connecticut, here is what do know about three years of  COVID deaths.

A leading cause of death

From the moment the pandemic arrived in Connecticut, COVID-19 has been one of the state’s leading causes of death, up there with the most feared and reliable killers.

According to provisional data from the state Office of Vital Records, COVID accounted for more than 15 percent of all deaths in Connecticut in 2020, ranking it behind only heart disease, cardiovascular disease and cancer among leading causes of death in the state.

COVID deaths dropped in 2021 with improvements in treatment and the arrival of vaccines, but even then the disease accounted for about 8 percent of deaths, again ranking among the state’s top 10 leading causes of death.

In both years, COVID killed more than six times as many people in Connecticut as pneumonia and influenza combined.

Though cause-of-death data is not yet available for 2022, the state reported a similar number of COVID deaths as the previous year, suggesting the disease likely ranked as a top cause of death once again.

Even today, with COVID numbers as low as it has been in nearly a year, the disease continues to kill in large numbers. In just two months of 2023, Connecticut has reported more COVID-linked deaths than it did murders in the four years from 2016 to 2019 combined.

An uneven impact

COVID, of course, has touched every age group, every race and ethnicity and every part of the state, the nation and world. But state data makes clear that not everyone in Connecticut experienced the pandemic equally.

Of the 12,187 people in Connecticut whose deaths have been tied to COVID, more than half have been 80 or older, and more than three-quarters have been 70 or older. Only about 3.5 percent have been younger than 50.

Men have been slightly more likely than women to die from COVID, accounting for about 51 percent of recorded deaths.

Black and Hispanic Connecticut residents have been far more likely to die from COVID-19 than white residents after adjusting for age. This was particularly true early in the pandemic, when viral spread was largely concentrated in urban areas.

Hartford County has seen more deaths per 100,000 residents than any other county, state numbers show, followed by New Haven, Middlesex and Fairfield Counties. Tolland County, on the other hand, has seen the fewest deaths per capita.

Deadly surges

Connecticut has seen three main surges of COVID-19 death: spring 2020, as well as each of the three following winters.

  • Spring 2020 — 3,908 deaths from March 31 through May 31, accounting for about 32 percent of the state’s total deaths during the pandemic
  • Winter 2020-21 — 2,693 deaths from Nov. 23 through Feb. 19, accounting for about 22 percent of total deaths
  • Winter 2021-22 — 1,793 deaths from Dec. 10 through March 24, accounting for about 15 percent of deaths

Altogether, those four surges account for nearly nearly 70 percent of total deaths during the pandemic.

Still, Connecticut has seen significant death outside those relatively short bursts. This winter, for example, the state has averaged nearly 50 COVID deaths a week, including 42 during the most recent seven-day period for which data is available.

Connecticut recorded at least eight COVID deaths every single week in 2022 and hasn’t gone a full week without a death since March 2020.

Excess death

To assess not only COVID-19’s direct effects but also its indirect ones, researchers have worked to calculate “excess mortality” — or the difference between how many deaths a place might be expected to have in a given time period (based on historical trends) and how many deaths it actually recorded.

The excess death formulation also controls for a common complaint about official COVID counts: that they include not only people who died from the disease but also those who died with the disease. If states and countries were vastly over-counting COVID deaths, excess death figures would reveal that.

Instead, excess death data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that deaths have far exceeded their historical level during each of Connecticut’s three main COVID surges, as well as at several other points.

Even this past winter, when Connecticut’s COVID surge was not as dramatic as some feared, the state saw hundreds more deaths than would have been predicted based on historical trends.

Overall, the CDC estimates Connecticut has seen roughly 11,422 excess deaths during the pandemic, not far off its total number of official COVID-19 deaths — and certainly more than anyone in March 2020 could have imagined.

alex.putterman@hearstmediact.com.