Reported Deaths in Florida to Continue Increasing for Several Weeks

In a post at the end of 2021, we explained how deaths would likely increase substantially in the first weeks of January. On January 1, a few days after being published, the reported 7-day average of deaths was less than 20 per day. By January 23, a little more than three weeks later, weekly reported deaths had increased to 130 per day. While DeathSantis’ Ministry of Propaganda assured everyone that everything was fine and there would be only a ‘mild’ increase in deaths (if they would even admit that), anybody with half a brain knew this was just another lie – especially laughable given the record-breaking number of cases and rapidly increasing hospital admissions.

Sure, it is satisfying to be proven right (in a perverse way, given the circumstances), but the truth is that this was a very unremarkable prediction as hospitalizations, the best predictor of the death toll, were increasing at the time. Everyone that isn’t a total political hack devoted to spreading the cancerous rot that is Ron DeSantis said this was going to happen – you know, because science and math and stuff.   

Now the question of course is, “how high will deaths go?”

In our previous post, we looked at differences between predicting hospital deaths from ICU numbers and overall hospital census. For the Summer 2021 wave, overall hospitalizations were a more accurate predictor of hospital deaths than ICU numbers. Unfortunately, as of January 6, HHS is no longer requiring hospitals to report deaths due to COVID in hospitals, leading to a substantial drop in the number of Florida hospitals reporting this invaluable data. Our prediction that the current wave’s hospital deaths would fit better with overall census rather than ICU census has thus been rendered inconclusive. This is a serious detriment to tracking the situation as hospital reported deaths were one of the few real time pieces of information available.

Nevertheless, we can still make meaningful observations with the remaining data. Recognizing the close relationship between deaths by report date and deaths by occurrence date (total deaths, not hospital reported ones), we can approximate how many people died several weeks ago.   

As we see in the figure, the number of deaths occurring on a particular date is about the same as the number of deaths reported two weeks from that date. If 100 deaths are reported today, about the same number died two weeks ago. For more than a year, this relationship has been consistent in Florida, but there is obviously no guarantee that deaths will be processed in the same way in the future. Assuming Florida DOH continues to report deaths at the same rate, then it is safe to say that about 74 people were dying two weeks ago (January 10 at the time this was written). Due to the way Florida started to report deaths beginning in the summer of 2021 (twice a week, on Monday and Thursday typically), this produces a jagged 7-day average. This doesn’t matter too much as the extreme fluctuations average out but will produce more extreme residuals and overly variable day-to-day estimates. If reporting days are shifted due to holidays, there will be large artificial jumps in the 7-day average.

Note that the ‘Deaths Reported’ in the figure is not truly the number of deaths reported but fitted values from a statistical model that is nearly equivalent. The number of days lag from 0 to 21 was fit with 14 resulting in the minimum model deviance. The most recent 45 days were removed due to incomplete death data. Black dashed lines in the plot indicate the most recent 45 days of deaths that are expected to increase as reporting progresses. Red dashed lines indicate the predicted number of deaths for this incomplete period. Using this method, the number of people dying two weeks ago (January 10) is likely between 74 and 127 – call it 100.

In fact, the 7-day average of deaths on January 10 is already 74 (as of January 24) but this number will almost definitely increase substantially over the next month or more. The 74 and 127 estimates are from the most recent predictions from 14 and 15 days ago, respectively (the actual 7-day average of reported deaths is 78 and 130 for these days).

In this figure, we see the relationship between total deaths (by date they occurred) and total hospital census shifted seven days back. The turquoise dashed lines show 2, 4, 6 and six weeks ago, along with the two most recent days’ predictions from the first section (black dots). As we can see, total deaths are highly correlated with overall hospitalizations (excluding the most recent month or so while deaths are being added). The observed deaths in November and December is actually greater than would be expected given the number of hospitalizations.

Hospital census has seemingly peaked about a week ago, so overall deaths are probably peaking now (the 7-day lag of hospital census to deaths produces the best fit) while reported deaths will reach a maximum in about two weeks. This might extend another week due to the slower decline in hospitalization numbers (and there has even been a slight increase in cases this week, which may complicate things).     

Going back to the ‘Census vs ICU’ question from the previous post, the next figure shows the predictions for the most recent five weeks based on data from the preceding 200 days (i.e., 242 to 43 days back). It is apparent that the ICU numbers (5-day lag) in Florida do not have the same relationship to deaths as in previous waves. That is, a greater number of people are dying per ‘COVID ICU bed’ now than previously. Using the overall hospitalization numbers, however, there is good agreement up until the past few weeks where deaths are notoriously underreported (Florida DOH is still adding/subtracting deaths from August 2021).

Using the much more accurate ‘Census Model,’ deaths are expected to peak at over 250 per day – much greater than the numbers being pushed by the ICU is Low/Omicron is Mild/For vs With crowd. Although ICU numbers will not reach half of the Summer 2021 wave when deaths peaked at about 400 per day, there will very likely be more than half the deaths. This would be a greater peak than both the Summer and Winter 2020 waves – neither of which had widespread vaccines or treatments available (or a state health department helmed by a whacko that can’t answer a yes/no question about whether vaccines are safe and effective).

The good news is that hospitalizations are decreasing and actual deaths occurring today are probably the highest they will be or even slightly past the peak. Unfortunately, there will be several more weeks of increasing number of deaths reported.

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