Total COVID-19 Mortality in Italy: Excess Mortality and Age Dependence through Time-Series Analysis

Chirag Modi, Vanessa Böhm, Simone Ferraro, George Stein, Uroš Seljak
April 20, 2020

Abstract: We perform a counterfactual time series analysis using two different Data Science methods applied to 2020 mortality data reported from towns in Italy, with data from the previous five years as control. We find an excess mortality that is correlated in time with the COVID-19 reported death rate time series. Our analysis shows good agreement with reported COVID-19 mortality for age<70 years, but an excess in total mortality increasing with age above 70 years, suggesting there is a large population of predominantly old people missing from the official fatality statistics. We estimate that the number of COVID-19 deaths in Italy is 52,000 ± 2000 as of April 18 2020, more than a factor of 2 higher than the official number. The Population Fatality Rate (PFR) has reached 0.22% in the most affected region of Lombardia and 0.57% in the most affected province of Bergamo,which constitutes a lower bound to the Infection Fatality Rate (IFR). We estimate PFR as a function of age, finding a steep age dependence: in Lombardia (Bergamo province) 0.6% (1.7%) of the total population in age group 70-79 died, 1.6% (4.6%) in age group 80-89, and 3.41% (10.2%) in the age group above 90. We combine this with the Test Positivity Rate to estimate the lower bound of 0.84% on the IFR for Lombardia. We observe IFR to trace the Yearly Mortality Rate (YMR) above 60 years, which can be used to estimate the IFR for other regions in the world. We predict an IFR lower bound of 0.5% for NYC and 26% of total COVID-19 mortality arising from the population below 65 years, in agreement with the existing data and several times higher than Lombardia. Combining PFR with the Princess Diamond cruise ship IFR for ages above 70 we estimate the infection rates(IR) of regions in Italy, which peak in Lombardia at 23% (12%-41%, 95% c.l.), and for provinces in Bergamo at 67% (33%-100%, 95% c.l.). This suggests that Bergamo may have reached herd immunity, and that the number of infected people greatly exceeds the number of positive tests, by a factor of 35 in Lombardia.

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Uroš Seljak

Physics, Astronomy, Berkeley Center for Cosmological Physics
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