CDC director says she’s ‘scared’ over increase of cases and deaths in recent weeks

Covid-19 was third leading cause of death in United States in 2020, CDC reports

Heart disease and cancer were the two leading causes of death in the US

Danielle Zoellner
New York
@dani__zoellner
Wednesday 31 March 2021 19:47
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Covid-19 was the third leading cause of death in the United States last year after heart disease and cancer, according to provisional data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There were 3.3 million deaths recorded in 2020, which was a 15.9 per cent increase from the previous year, according to data compiled by the National Vital Statistics System.

The deadliest weeks in the United States occurred at the beginning of the pandemic and then went into December following a holiday surge. The two deadliest weeks were the ones ending on 11 April and 26 December, with 78,917 and 80,656 people dying respectively, the CDC found.

Only two causes were deadlier than Covid-19 in 2020: Heart disease, which was first, and cancer, which was the second leading cause of death.

Heart disease killed 690,882 people and cancer killed 598,932. This compared to Covid-19, which killed an estimated 375,000 Americans, the report found.

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The CDC established Covid-19 as the third leading cause of death by looking at provisional death certificate dates for residents between January and December 2020.

"The numbers and rates of overall deaths and Covid-19 deaths were assessed by age, sex, race/ethnicity," the CDC wrote.

Covid-19 killed more Americans than unintentional injuries, strokes, chronic lower respiratory disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia and kidney disease, the data reveals.

"Covid-19 was the third leading underlying cause of death in 2020, replacing suicide as one of the top 10 leading causes of death," the researchers wrote in the report. Suicide was in the tenth spot but it was pushed out by the novel virus as the death rates climbed.

The highest annual death rates were reported among men, people aged 85 and older, and people who are non-Hispanic Black and American Indian and Alaskan Native, the CDC said.

But when looking at Covid-19 alone, the federal agency found that the novel virus was higher among Hispanic, American Indian, and Alaskan Native people compared to other groups. Covid-19 deaths were also higher among people aged 85 years and older, and higher among men compared to women.

The data was provisional, meaning the number of deaths could change as the federal agency received more information. But the data supported the accuracy of Covid-19 mortality surveillance in the country through the use of official death certificates over the past year, the CDC said.

"These data can guide public health policies and interventions aimed at reducing numbers of deaths that are directly or indirectly associated with the Covid-19 pandemic and among persons most affected, including those who are older, male, or from disproportionality racial/ethnic minority groups," the CDC said.

More than 550,000 Americans have died from the novel virus since the start of the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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