2020 Becomes The Deadliest Year In The US As Deaths Set To Hit 3 Million

This year is already the deadliest in US history with overall deaths expected to top 3 million for the first time - as COVID-19 fatalities continue to surge to record highs with one American dying every 33 seconds in the last week alone.  

Preliminary numbers from the CDC suggest that the US is on track to see more than 3.2 million total deaths this year, which is a 15 percent jump from 2019 when 2.8 million deaths were recorded.  

It would mark the largest single-year percentage leap since 1918 when 116,516 US soldiers died in World War I and 675,000 Americans died in the Spanish Flu pandemic. Deaths rose 46 percent that year, compared with 1917.

Deaths could potentially go even higher for 2020 once all fatalities from this month are counted. 

COVID-19 has so far killed more than 319,000 Americans this year and the death toll is only increasing.

Deaths from coronavirus have been surging this month to record highs with the nationwide seven-day average now at more than 2,600. 

The last week has been the deadliest of the pandemic so far with more than 18,000 COVID-19 deaths, which equates to one death every 33 seconds. 

The month of December is now on track to become the deadliest month of the pandemic. 

Just 21 days into the month, December has already recorded 50,996 deaths. It is just shy of the 52,200 deaths recorded during the entire month of April. 

In the last week, deaths increased in 22 states.  

Washington, Delaware, Oregon, and Arizona all reported a more than 50 percent increase in fatalities compared to the previous seven days, according to a Reuters analysis of local and state reports.  

In terms of deaths per 100,000 people, Iowa, South Dakota and Rhode Island were the hardest hit.  

Health officials fear the death toll will only increase after the holiday season. 

Hospitals across the country are already at capacity and officials say a surge in new infections due to gatherings and travel could impact that. 

The US recorded 190,519 new cases on Monday and a record total of 115,351 people are currently hospitalized with the virus. 

Tennessee, California, and Rhode Island had the highest per capita new cases in the country last week, according to the Reuters analysis. 

While the country has begun to administer two new vaccines, it may be months before the inoculations put a dent in the COVID-19 outbreak. 

The COVID-19 epidemic has been a big driver of deaths this year, both directly and indirectly, according to death certificate data released on Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The virus has become the third leading cause of death in the US, behind only heart disease and cancer. 

For certain periods this year, COVID-19 was the number one killer. But some other types of deaths also have increased.

A burst of pneumonia cases early this year may have been COVID-19 deaths that simply weren't recognized as such early in the epidemic

There also has been an unexpected number of deaths from certain types of heart and circulatory diseases, diabetes, and dementia, according to Robert Anderson, who oversees CDC death statistics.

Many of those, too, maybe related to COVID. 

Anderson said the virus could have weakened patients already struggling with those conditions or could have diminished the care they were getting. 

Early in the epidemic, some were optimistic that car crash deaths would drop as people stopped commuting or driving to social events. Data on that is not yet in, but anecdotal reports suggest there was no such decline.

Suicide deaths dropped in 2019 compared with 2018, but early information suggests they have not continued to drop this year, Anderson and others said.

Drug overdose deaths, meanwhile, got much worse. Before the coronavirus even arrived, the US was in the midst of the deadliest drug overdose epidemic in its history.

Data for all of 2020 is not yet available but last week the CDC reported more than 81,000 drug overdose deaths in the 12 months ending in May, making it the highest number ever recorded in a one-year period.

Experts think the pandemic's disruption to in-person treatment and recovery services may have been a factor. 

People also are more likely to be taking drugs alone - without the benefit of a friend or family member who can call 911 or administer overdose-reversing medication.

But perhaps a bigger factor is the drugs themselves: COVID-19 caused supply problems for dealers, so they are increasingly mixing cheap and deadly fentanyl into heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine, experts said.

'I don't suspect there are a bunch of new people who suddenly started using drugs because of COVID. If anything, I think the supply of people who are already using drugs is more contaminated,' said Shannon Monnat, a Syracuse University researcher who studies drug overdose trends.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic came along, there was reason to be hopeful about US death trends this year. 

The nation's overall mortality rate fell a bit in 2019, due to reductions in heart disease and cancer deaths. 

Life expectancy inched up - by several weeks - for the second straight year, according to the CDC's death certificate data.

However, life expectancy for 2020 could now end up dropping as much as three full years. 

The CDC counted 2.8 million US deaths last year, or nearly 16,000 more than in 2018. That's fairly good news: Deaths usually rise by about 20,000 to 50,000 each year, mainly due to the nation's aging, and growing, population.

Indeed, the age-adjusted death rate dropped about 1 percent in 2019, and life expectancy rose by about six weeks to 78.8 years, the CDC reported.

'It was actually a pretty good year for mortality, as things go,' Anderson said. 

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