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Excess Deaths Jump 23% in US in 2020, Mostly Because of COVID-19

Editor’s note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Center.

The United States saw nearly 23% more deaths than expected during the first 9 months of the pandemic, and almost three-quarters of those deaths involved COVID-19.

For comparison, the death rate increased by 2.5% or less annually in recent years.

At the same time, rates of deaths from heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, and diabetes also increased from March 1, 2020, to January 2, 2021, especially during COVID-19 surges.

“Excess deaths surged in the east in April, followed by extended summer and early winter surges concentrated in southern and western states, respectively. Many of these states weakly embraced, or discouraged, pandemic control measures and lifted restrictions earlier than other states,” lead author Steven H. Woolf, MD, MPH, from the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine in Richmond, and colleagues wrote in a Research Letter published online April 2, 2021, in JAMA.

COVID-19 mortality included all deaths for which it was cited as an underlying or contributing cause in records from the District of Columbia and 49 states. North Carolina was excluded for insufficient data.

More Than Half a Million Excess Deaths

Between March 1, 2020

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