Covid Was Third Leading Cause Of Death In U.S. Last Year

Topline

In 2021, Covid-19 was the third leading cause of death in the U.S., as the delta and omicron waves drove the pandemic’s death toll up by nearly a quarter over 2020, according to a provisional report released Friday by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

Key Facts

For the second year running, heart disease was the U.S.’s leading cause of death, followed by cancer and Covid-19, with Covid-19 accounting for 13.3% of all deaths in 2021, up from 10.4% in 2020.

The total number of Covid-19 deaths rose from about 375,000 in 2020 to about 460,000 in 2021, an increase of about 23%, with infections peaking in mid-January 2021 after Americans returned from holiday trips.

Older people were generally more likely to die from Covid-19 during 2021, with people age 85 and older—the most impacted group—dying at a rate over 12 times higher than the general population, a trend generally consistent with 2020 figures.

Though most racial and ethnic disparities in pandemic deaths shrunk in 2021, some groups were still disproportionately impacted.

Compared to the general population, the Covid-19 death rate was 79% higher for Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders, 78% higher for American Indians and Alaska Natives, 42% higher for Hispanics and 32% higher for Black and African American people, the CDC said.

This data can help public health programs reduce pandemic death rates by focusing on the people most severely affected—namely, people who are older, male or members of severely impacted racial and ethnic groups, researchers said.

Key Background

Covid-19 infections peaked twice in 2021, reaching an all-time high in mid-January and spiking again in September, following the arrival of the highly transmissible delta variant and the relaxing of some pandemic restrictions. The total number of Covid-19 deaths for 2021 surpassed the previous year’s total in October, shortly before the arrival of the omicron variant. Though national infection numbers have risen by roughly 59% over the past month, Covid-19 deaths have dropped off by about 60% over the same period, reflecting the highly transmissible but less severe nature of the omicron variant compared to previous variants. However, it’s possible that official counts do not capture the full effect of the virus. A study published by the Lancet found that, during 2020-2021, the global number of “excess deaths” was about three times smaller than the number of officially registered Covid-19 deaths, suggesting that many Covid-19 deaths are not being accurately attributed to the virus.

Big Number

987,601. That’s the cumulative number of Covid-19 deaths in the U.S., as of Thursday, according to the CDC.

What To Watch For

The CDC reports published Friday contain provisional estimates based on death certificate data that has not yet been fully vetted. A final report is set to be released around November.

Tangent

In 2021, the leading causes of death in the U.S. were heart disease, cancer, Covid-19, unintentional injuries, stroke, chronic lower respiratory disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, kidney disease and suicide, according to Friday’s report. “Unintentional injuries,” which was also the fourth leading cause of death in 2020, is a category mostly driven by drug overdose deaths, the CDC said.

Further Reading

“True Covid Pandemic Death Toll Could Be Three Times Higher Than Official Count, Study Finds” (Forbes)

Reference-www.forbes.com

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