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CDC: COVID-19 the Third-Leading Cause of U.S. Deaths Last Year

April 01, 2021

COVID-19 was the third-leading cause of death last year in the United States, according to two reports released this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that attribute the loss of more than 345,000 Americans to the coronavirus.

Only heart disease and cancer were responsible for more deaths among the 3.3 million reported in 2020, a 16 percent increase over 2019.

The biggest single-week death totals were the weeks ending April 11 (78,917) and Dec. 26 (80,656).

The reports, published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, suggest an analysis of data from death certificates and the National Vital Statistics System indicate the year’s COVID-related death count, though provisional, is likely a conservative estimate. Final mortality data is usually released 11 months after a year ends, but the researchers cited “the pressing need for updated, quality data during the global COVID-19 pandemic.”

United States deaths in 2020 (CDC provisional data):

  • Heart disease: 690,882.
  • Cancer: 598,932.
  • COVID-19: 345,323.
  • Unintentional injuries: 192,176.
  • Stroke: 159,050.
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 151,637.
  • Alzheimer’s disease: 133,382.
  • Diabetes: 101,106.
  • Influenza and pneumonia: 53,495.
  • Kidney disease: 52,260.
  • Suicide: 44,834.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, in a midweek briefing, said COVID-related deaths among “nearly all” ethnic and racial minority  groups — American Indian, Alaskan Native people, Hispanics, Blacks, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander — were more than double the death rate of non-Hispanic white people.

Meanwhile, cases are rising nationally amid the expansion of vaccine availability and eligibility. In Connecticut, the test positivity rate of 4.45 percent represents a spike from several weeks ago. On Thursday, anyone in the state 16 years old and up became eligible for the vaccine. As of Thursday morning, Hartford HealthCare had vaccinated 159,449 people, administered 265,515 first and second doses and scheduled 33,970 more vaccination appointments.

“I’m hoping we’ve turned the corner at this point,” says Dr. Ulysses Wu, Hartford HealthCare’s System Director of Infection Disease and Chief Epidemiologist.