COVID-19 third leading cause of death in US in 2021

Holding older patient's hand
Holding older patient's hand

sittithat tangwitthayaphum / iStock

COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death in the United States last year, and deaths from COVID-19 increased by 1% in 2021 over 2020, according to new data from the National Vital Statistics System released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Only heart disease and cancer killed more Americans than COVID-19, with provisional death tolls from each cause totaling 693,000, 605,000, and 415,000, respectively. Those were also the three leading killers in 2020.

Approximately 60,000 more people died from COVID-19 in 2021 than the first year of the pandemic. In both years, the death rates from COVID-19 were highest in Americans ages 85 and older.

Overall death rates were highest among non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaskan Native and non-Hispanic Black or African American people, the CDC said in a statement.

"Disparities in the age-adjusted COVID-19 death rates decreased by 14%–40% for most racial and ethnic groups, including non-Hispanic White people, who accounted for 60%–65% of all people who died; and increased non-significantly (7.2%) for non-Hispanic Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander persons (0.2%–0.3% of people who died) compared with non-Hispanic multiracial people," the CDC said in the report.

The findings "highlight the need for greater effort to implement effective interventions," the CDC said in the statement. "We must work to ensure equal treatment in all communities in proportion to their need for effective interventions that can prevent excess COVID-19 deaths."

The United States reported 49,200 new COVID-19 cases yesterday and 471 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 tracker. The 7-day average of new daily cases is 41,286, with 367 daily deaths, according to the Washington Post tracker.

In total the United States has confirmed 80,896,222 COVID-19 cases, including 990,939 deaths, since the start of the pandemic.

Cities scramble with mask mandates

As cases continue to rise with the highly transmissible BA.2 variant, mayors across the country are grappling with reinstating mask mandates.

Boston officials are recommending that people wear masks again indoors because of a steep increase in COVID-19 cases over the past 2 weeks, the Associated Press reports.

Meanwhile Philadelphia announced yesterday that it will soon lift its mask mandate, just 4 days after the mandate was reinstated in response to rising COVID-19 cases, the New York Times reports. City officials say cases in the city appear to be plateauing.

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