MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A new study from researchers at the University of Minnesota suggests that more people died last year of COVID-19 than official statistics suggest, particularly among Minnesotans of color.

In a study published last month in the journal Socius, the researchers examined Minnesota’s excess mortality, or the number of deaths above what one would expect based on previous years. Viewing 2020 through that lens, the researchers noticed large racial disparities, particularly when adjusted for age.

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In the age-adjusted analysis, excess mortality through the first several months of the pandemic was more than five times higher for Black Minnesotans that their white counterparts. The researchers suggest that this disparity — and those between whites and other groups — could be the result of uncounted COVID-19 deaths or indirectly related to the pandemic, such as loss of work or averted medical care.

“To understand the pandemic’s toll, we need to look at deaths holistically,” said study lead Elizabeth Wrigley-Field, an assistant professor in the university’s Department of Sociology, in a statement. “Focusing only on official, confirmed COVID-19 deaths understates what has happened to Minnesota’s communities of color in particular.”

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The official statistics show a different overall picture, with COVID-19 deaths proportionate to the state’s racial makeup. The Minnesota Department of Health updates its statistics daily with counts on confirmed infections, test processing and deaths.

The researchers say that the official death statistics likely paint too crude a picture, as they’re largely made up of fatalities among residents in long-term care, who are mostly white.

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