On Sunday, El Paso health officials probably will announce that COVID deaths have surpassed 600 (it’s 599 today by the city’s count and 623 by the state’s count). It’s increasingly likely that El Paso will have well above 1,000 COVID-19 deaths by the end of the year, challenging cancer as our leading cause of death. Here’s why.
It often takes the Department of Public Health a long time to confirm a COVID-19 death. Right now, we have 220 deaths under investigation, which is up more than 120 since the beginning of October. So far, only about 4% of suspected COVID-19 deaths in El Paso have been attributed to something else. So the vast majority of these deaths under investigation will be confirmed to be COVID deaths.
Adding the confirmed deaths and suspected deaths, El Paso already has lost at least 800 people to COVID-19 so far this year. This doesn’t include the likelihood that some people died in the early months of the pandemic without getting tested for COVID-19 and aren’t counted.
It often takes several weeks from infection to death for those who don’t survive COVID. El Paso will have about 25,000 COVID cases in October. If 1.5% die, a conservative estimate, that’s 375 deaths from this month’s cases. (El Paso’s COVID fatality rate was 2% at the beginning of October.) Many of the people who will die after getting sick in October aren’t yet in the count of confirmed or suspected deaths.
We don’t know what November will look like, but let’s assume it will be bad, but not as bad as right now. Even if we have half the number of October cases (12,500), that’s another 190 or so deaths using the conservative 1.5% mortality rate.
Some people who get sick in December will die before the end of the year. All told, we’re looking at something approaching 1,300 COVID-19 deaths by the end of the year, and that’s assuming infections start to slow quickly.
Only cancer came close to killing that many El Pasoans in 2018, the most recent year for which data is available. And COVID didn’t start killing El Pasoan until April 9.