[Excerpt from front-page feature article by Alex Putterman, Sunday, June 5, 2022]
Officially, Connecticut has recorded 10,972 COVID-19 deaths over the past two-plus years, a devastating total that once would have seemed unimaginable. Staggering as that figure is, however, the pandemic’s true death toll in Connecticut might be even higher.
According to statistics measuring “excess mortality,” or the number of deaths relative to what is typical in a non-crisis time, Connecticut has likely experienced hundreds of deaths — whether from the disease itself or from its indirect impacts — that remain uncounted in official totals. These deaths, research suggests, have been spread highly unevenly, with large cities suffering downstream effects of the pandemic that suburban and rural areas did not.
From early in the pandemic, it has been clear that Connecticut’s urban areas, which tend to have large numbers of poor residents and residents of color, have experienced COVID-19 most acutely. As of this week, the state’s five largest cities (Bridgeport, Stamford, New Haven, Hartford and Waterbury) account for more than a quarter of Connecticut’s recorded deaths from the disease, despite accounting for only about 18% of its population.
Now, new excess death data suggests this split is even more extreme than was previously known.
According to previously unpublished analysis by the Connecticut-based nonprofit DataHaven, COVID-19 accounted for virtually all excess mortality in most parts of the state but only about 80 percent in the state’s five largest cities. In those cities, another 13 percent came from “accident and injury” deaths — a broad category that includes motor vehicle crashes, overdoses, gun deaths and more — while the remaining 7 percent owed to other causes such as cancer, heart disease and lung disease.
In other words, a few cities alone have borne the overwhelming brunt of COVID-19’s indirect effects.
“In urban areas, there were also these [non-COVID] factors that led to other causes of mortality being elevated,” said Kelly Davila, a senior research associate at DataHaven. “All of these mitigating circumstances just happened to be seen in higher quantities in urban areas.”