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Press Release

Cleveland Fed researchers find that COVID-19 death data collected by state health departments provide a more reliable metric for policymakers and health authorities than excess mortality rates

Medical data are new to the analyses and deliberations of Federal Reserve monetary policymakers, but such data are now of primary importance to policymakers who need to understand the coronavirus’s trajectory to assess economic conditions and address the virus’s impacts on the economy. The number of deaths caused by COVID-19 is one key metric that is often referred to, but as with other COVID metrics, it is a challenge to measure accurately.

This Economic Commentary describes the issues involved in measuring deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic. Cleveland Fed researchers Dionissi Aliprantis and Kristen Tauber argue that the change in the number of directly observed COVID-19 deaths—which are reported in data from state health departments—is the most reliable and timely approach when using deaths to judge the trajectory of the pandemic in the United States.

“Accurate measurement of mortality will allow us to better understand the state of the pandemic,” say the researchers. “Using mortality data such as directly observed disease deaths, which are both more timely and more complete than excess mortality, will improve policy decisions and will be vital in monitoring outbreaks.”

Read more: Measuring Deaths from COVID-19

Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland

The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland is one of 12 regional Reserve Banks that along with the Board of Governors in Washington DC comprise the Federal Reserve System. Part of the US central bank, the Cleveland Fed participates in the formulation of our nation’s monetary policy, supervises banking organizations, provides payment and other services to financial institutions and to the US Treasury, and performs many activities that support Federal Reserve operations System-wide. In addition, the Bank supports the well-being of communities across the Fourth Federal Reserve District through a wide array of research, outreach, and educational activities.

The Cleveland Fed, with branches in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, serves an area that comprises Ohio, western Pennsylvania, eastern Kentucky, and the northern panhandle of West Virginia.

Media contact

Doug Campbell,, 513.455.4479