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As we debate whether the COVID-19 pandemic is “over,” whatever that means, here’s a number to consider: Three and a half people each day.

This is the number of excess deaths that have occurred in New Hampshire during the pandemic era. This counts all deaths, not just those related to COVID — deaths due to any disease, to car wrecks, homicides, overdoses, suicides, even cause unknown. (My arithmetic is below if you want to check.)

It seems that even if you managed to avoid getting COVID, stress, delayed medical treatment, lifestyle changes and everything else we’ve gone through since early 2020 has made it slightly harder to stay alive in the Granite State.

There’s no sign of things changing, either. Official COVID numbers in the state remain as they’ve been all summer: between 75 and 100 people are in a hospital with the disease every day, according to the New Hampshire Hospital Association, with one or two people dying daily from the disease, according to the state.

Neither of these figures declined during the warm weather, as they have done in past years, but on the other hand neither has risen as leaves start to turn, as happened in past years. It’s not at all clear what’s going to happen this winter.

The situation was summed up by Rustin Taylor, executive assistant at the federal prison in Berlin, who I called last week after hearing that visitation had been stopped due to COVID.

He told me visitation has been curtailed off and on for months due to COVID — either due to outbreaks within the facility or increased rates of sickness in the outside community, which raise concern about bringing it into the prison. Visitation is open, then it has to close down, then it opens, then it closes.

“The pandemic may be over but we still have a COVID-19 issue,” is how Taylor put it.

Exactly. So get your booster and wear a mask in crowds.

Follow the math

Here are details about my excess-death calculations.

I totaled up the weekly death count from the CDC’s Weekly Provisional Counts of Deaths by State for the 128 weeks from March 2020, when the first New Hampshire death from “the novel coronavirus” was reported, through early September and compared to the death tally for the 128 weeks leading up to March 2020.

The CDC says 33,807 people died in New Hampshire during the pandemic era. By comparison, in the 128 weeks prior to that first official COVID death, 30,680 deaths were reported in the state.

That’s 3,127 more deaths since March 2020 as compared to the same period earlier, which is 24.4 more deaths each week or 3.48 more deaths each day.

Incidentally, this excess mortality is much higher than the official running tally of 2,670 COVID-related deaths, implying that 450 or so people have died in the past 2½ years for reasons not directly related to the SARS-CoV2 virus.

Admittedly, this is a rudimentary analysis. For one thing, the population has risen slightly during the period due to in-migration so you would expect a few more deaths. And the two time periods also don’t cover exactly the same seasons, which affects death rates. Finally, the CDC data is constantly tweaked as death certificates roll in, so death numbers for the most recent couple of months will eventually be slightly higher.

Still, I think it’s clear that the pandemic has killed a lot of people who didn’t succumb to the virus.

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