COVID-19 was Michigan’s leading cause of dea...

COVID-19 was Michigan’s leading cause of death in April, over heart disease and cancer

The numbers don't lie — Michigan experienced an unusually high mortality rate in April due to the novel coronavirus.

covid19 leading cause of death michigan

Michigan is flattening the curve, and COVID-19 cases are on the decline. But as new numbers give us hope, it’s worth taking a look back at what the heck just happened. All the stats paint a pretty clear picture: April. was. grim. 

One way epidemiologists look at the impact of epidemics is through the concept of “excess mortality” — defined by the World Health Organization as “mortality above what would be expected based on the non-crisis mortality rate in the population of interest.” How many extra deaths did COVID-19 cause in April in Michigan? Aaron Velthoven, of Michigan.com, dug into it recently. He posted this graph on Facebook drawing on publicly available health data — Detour created the similar graphic above, interactive here) showing that the coronavirus was the leading single cause of death in Michigan in April — ahead of heart disease and cancer — with 2,386 deaths. 

To make sure we had our numbers straight, we called on Theresa A. Hastert, an epidemiologist at Wayne State University School of Medicine, to take a closer look at the data. 

“About an extra 2,400 Michiganders died in April than would have in a typical April, because of COVID,” Hastert told Detour.

She also noted that pneumonia deaths and deaths in the “other” category were higher than normal in April, suggesting that some of those deaths might have also been COVID-related. “This data illustrates what’s going on pretty well.”

You can view excess deaths for all states here

Find more stories about how Detroiters are navigating the COVID-19 epidemic here.

Nina Misuraca Ignaczak is a contributing editor for Detour Detroit. She is the founder and executive editor of Planet Detroit, a digital media startup that tells Detroit’s environmental stories while building a community of engaged readers who are informed and empowered to act personally and publicly. She is an award-winning freelance journalist who writes, edits and produces stories about the environment, place and identity. Her recent work has been published by Detour Detroit, Belt Magazine, HuffPost, Detroit Free Press, WDET, Crains Detroit Business, Business Insider, Curbed Detroit and Model D. Prior to her career in journalism, she worked in urban planning in the local government and nonprofit sectors. She has a Master of Science in Natural Resource Ecology and a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Twitter: @ninaignaczak