The coronavirus caused approximately 375,000 deaths, and was the third leading cause of death in 2020, after heart disease and cancer. COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. now top 550,000 since the start of the pandemic.
COVID-19 displaced suicide as one of the top 10 causes of death, according to the report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“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,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday.
The U.S. death toll increases most years, but last year’s death rate was up nearly 16% compared to the previous year. That’s the largest one-year leap since 1918, when U.S. soldier deaths in World War I and the flu pandemic pushed deaths up 46% compared with 1917.
Death rates last year overall were highest among Black people and American Indian and Alaska Native people. The COVID-19 death rate was highest among Hispanic people.
“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 portions of these deaths,” Walensky said.
Preliminary data in December suggested 2020 would be an especially deadly year and the CDC’s new report showed it was even worse than anticipated. The new numbers are still considered preliminary and are based on an analysis of death certificates.