The COVID-19 pandemic caused approximately 375,000 deaths in the United States in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The disease was the third-leading cause of death behind heart disease and cancer.
Overall death rates were highest among Hispanics, non-Hispanic Black persons and non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native persons. COVID-19 related death rates for people of color were more than double than for white Americans.
“Provisional, national mortality data show that the COVID-19 pandemic substantially affected mortality in 2020. Early estimates of life expectancy at birth, based on provisional data for January to June 2020, show historic declines not seen since World War II (1942-1943),” researchers wrote in the JAMA medical journal.
“The effects of the pandemic are likely to continue through 2021 as well because COVID-19 has already caused more than 100,000 deaths this year.”
JAMA adds the effects of COVID-19 on mortality trends may be mitigated in 2021 given better detection and treatment options as well as increasing natural and vaccine-related immunity.
Though most of the increase in deaths from 2019 to 2020 was directly attributed to COVID-19, increases were also noted for several other leading causes of death including heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes.
Researchers say those numbers may also reflect disruptions in health care that hampered early detection and disease management. In 2020, there was also a rise in unintentional injury deaths largely driven by drug overdoses.
“Final mortality data will help determine the effect of the pandemic on concurrent trends in drug overdose deaths,” researchers wrote.
The COVID-19 death related numbers for 2020 come a year later amid the CDC declaring that mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective in preventing SARS-CoV-2 infections. The health agency has also declared it safe for fully vaccinated people to travel with low risk to themselves.
Someone is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the second recommended dose of vaccine.
Those persons can travel within the U.S. and do not need COVID-19 testing or post-travel self-quarantine if they continue to take precautions.
“With millions of Americans getting vaccinated every day, it is important to update the public on the latest science about what fully vaccinated people can do safely, now including guidance on safe travel,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. “We continue to encourage every American to get vaccinated as soon as it’s their turn, so we can begin to safely take steps back to our everyday lives. Vaccines can help us return to the things we love about life, so we encourage every American to get vaccinated as soon as they have the opportunity.”