Covid was third leading cause of US deaths in 2020, CDC says

Virus pushed US deaths to more than 3.3 million in a year, lowering life expectancy for many adults

Covid-19 was the 'third leading cause of death' in the US last year

Covid-19 was the 'third leading cause of death' in the US last year
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Covid-19 was the third leading cause of death in the US last year, contributing to about a 16 per cent increase in the national mortality rate from 2019, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The virus was the underlying or contributing cause of 377,883 deaths in America last year, according to the agency’s National Vital Statistics System.

Only heart disease and cancer were more deadly. Covid also displaced suicide as one of the top 10 causes of death.

Native Americans, Hispanics and black people had the highest rates of death from Covid-19 by race and ethnicity, the study found.

"It will take some time before the age-adjusted death rate and life expectancy return to pre-pandemic levels."

The death rate among white Americans was less than half of that among blacks and Hispanics.

Agency director Dr Rochelle Walensky called the statistics in minority groups, "historic and tragic declines in these populations".

Eighty-five per cent of deaths from Covid-19 were in people aged 65 and older. The rate was lowest among children aged between 5 and 14.

The agency said that the overall US mortality rate increased for the first time since 2017, by 15.9 per cent to 3,358,814 deaths. Covid-19, which accounted for an increase of 11.3 per cent.

Provisional estimates from the CDC, published last month, showed that life expectancy in the US fell by a year in the first half of 2020 – the biggest decline since the Second World War – and was at the lowest levels since 2006.

“The data should serve again as a catalyst for each of us to continue to do our part to drive down cases and reduce the spread of Covid-19, and get people vaccinated as quickly as possible," Dr Walensky said.

"I know this is not easy and so many of us are frustrated with the disruption this pandemic has had on our everyday lives.

"But we can do this as a nation working together.”

The US vaccine programme has been sped up in recent weeks, and enough immunisations have been given to cover 22.7 per cent of the population, Bloomberg reported.

Dr Walensky said the US government was working to address the inequalities in the pandemic by "distributing billions of dollars into communities disproportionately affected, to help mount the most aggressive, equitable vaccination campaign of modern times".

While cases have started to rise again, thanks to more infectious variants and states opening up, deaths have fallen from a peak of more than 3,000 reported Covid-19 deaths a day in January to an average of about 1,000 a day.

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In a second study, the agency rejected the notion that many deaths from Covid-19 were over-counted or exaggerated.

The health agency reviewed death certificates of people whose deaths had been primarily attributed to the infectious disease, but also had another medical condition.

In 97 per cent of certificates that attributed the death to Covid-19 and another condition, the latter diagnosis tended to be a “chain of event condition”, such as pneumonia or respiratory failure, or a “contributing condition” such as hypertension or diabetes.

That meant the other conditions were either brought about by Covid-19 or made the disease more deadly, the CDC said.

Only 2.5 per cent of death certificates listed conditions that have not been associated with Covid-19, the study found.

The agency said the analysis supported “the accuracy of Covid-19 mortality surveillance in the US using official death certificates".

But the agency suggested the underlying cause of some deaths may not have been properly classified as Covid-19, given the limited availability of testing for the coronavirus.

"It will take some time before the age-adjusted death rate and life expectancy return to pre-pandemic levels," said Marc Gourevitch, chairman of the department of population health at NYU Langone Health in New York.

Mr Gourevitch, who was not involved in the research, said it would be 2022 at the earliest for these trends to begin to normalise.

He said the direct effect of Covid-19 on mortality was also being compounded by the pandemic’s effect on jobs and economic conditions, disproportionately affecting minority communities hardest hit by the virus.