Modeling study shows geographical differences in US COVID deaths

Using data on excess mortality collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), researchers from Georgetown University found significant regional differences in mortality rates due to COVID-19, with a disproportionate number of virus deaths in southern states.

Excess deaths were analyzed for the period from 3 January 2020 to 26 September 2021, with the regions Northeast, Midwest, South and West compared. Although the south has only 38% of the U.S. population, this region has seen 48% of the country’s COVID-19 deaths since October 2020.

Using the excess death data over the same time period, there were 895,693 excess deaths associated with COVID-19, 26% more than previously reported, the authors said. Since 31 May 2020, the South has experienced COVID-19 mortality 26% higher than the national rate, whereas the Northeast rate was 42% lower.

If each region had the same mortality rate as the Northeast, more than 316,234 COVID-19 deaths between 31 May 2020 and 26 September 2021 could have been avoided.

“Our study is the first to quantify avoidable deaths and confirm that both COVID-19 deaths and avoidable deaths occurred disproportionately in the South,” said Michael Stoto, PhD, a similar author of the study in a press release.

The authors attribute these differences to lower vaccine intake in the South in 2021 and fewer mitigation strategies, including masking, during the pandemic.
Apr 28 PLoS One examination
April 28 Georgetown University Press release

The opera-led singing program relieved shortness of breath in long-term COVID patients

An ongoing online UK program using singing techniques helped alleviate post-COVID-19 mental well-being and persistent shortness of breath, according to a randomized, controlled trial published yesterday in Lancet Respiratory Medicine.

Led by researchers from Imperial College London, the trial involved 150 adults still having shortness of breath, with or without anxiety, 4 or more weeks after symptom onset (average, 320 days), referred from 51 UK long-term COVID clinics from 22 April to 25 May 2021. Eighty-one percent of the participants were women.

Patients were randomly assigned to either the 6-week English National Opera (ENO) Breathe program, which teaches breathing training using singing methods (74 participants) or usual care (76). The program is led by professional ENO singers and offers a one-on-one session, weekly group sessions and the provision of online services. Participants do not have to have singing skills and start with lullabies.

Compared to usual care, ENO Breathe was bound to improved mental health composite (MHC) – but not physical health composite (PHC) – score on RAND 36-topic short-term study (MHC improvement, 2.42 vs 0.60). 100-point visual analog scales showed a 10.48-point reduction in shortness of breath.

An analysis focusing on participants who attended all ENO Breathe sessions showed that 40% experienced a 5-point improvement in MHC compared to 17% of participants with usual care. An ENO Breathe participant reported minor, short-term dizziness when using a computer for long periods of time.

In a press release from Imperial College London, lead author Keir Phillip, MBChB, said the results suggest that the use of art-related interventions can relieve long-term COVID symptoms in certain patients, especially when provided with clinical services.

“Our study suggests that the improvements in symptoms experienced by participants are due to both practical breathing techniques learned, but also the creative, humane and positive way the program is delivered,” he said.

The authors of the study noted that 70 services in the UK have referred more than 1,000 participants to the program since launching in September 2020.
Apr 27 Lancet Respir Med examination
April 28 Imperial College London Press release

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