In a new report released Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that COVID-19 was the third-leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2020, trailing only behind heart disease and cancer.
The new statistics were released Wednesday by the CDC’s National Vital Statistics System (NVSS). The data in the study was based on death certificate data from local health departments.
According to that study, COVID-19 claimed the lives of 345,000 people in the U.S. in 2020. That trailed only heart disease (690,000 deaths) and cancer (598,000) as the leading causes of death.
COVID-19 deaths accounted for 11% of all deaths in the U.S. in 2020. But according to CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, COVID-19 not only claimed lives but accelerated the death rate in the U.S. by 16% compared to 2019.
The CDC Director added Wednesday that COVID-19 deaths were higher among Alaska Natives, Hispanics, non-Hispanic Black people and non-Hispanic Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander persons when compared to non-Hispanic white people.
“In fact, among nearly all of these ethnic and racial minority groups, the COVID-19-related deaths were more than double the death rate of non-Hispanic white persons,” Walensky said.
Walensky added that the racial disparity in health equity has continued in 2021.
“Sadly, based on the current state of the pandemic, these impacts have remained in 2021, where we continue to see that communities of color account for an outsize portion of these deaths,” she said. “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.”
During the spring and winter of 2020 — when the pandemic was at its worst — studies show that COVID-19 briefly outpaced heart disease and cancer as the leading cause of death in the U.S.
As of Wednesday, more than 548,000 people in the U.S. have died COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.