Seven thousand more Americans than usual have died each week this year, even as Covid-19 took a backseat, authorities say.
It suggests that more people are dying as a result of the fallout from lockdowns, hospital closures and other restrictions imposed during the pandemic.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it anticipates the annual death total to be 13 percent higher than the 3.2 million recorded in 2019, the last normal year before Covid-19 struck.
That would indicate about 7,000 “excess deaths” each week this year, a figure that could rise further as data for October and November are incomplete, and a late spike in Covid could still follow, said Farida Ahmad, who heads the Mortality surveillance at CDC.
The official number of deaths from covid-19 according to the CDC is almost 1.1 million, but that does not include associated deaths, such as fatal overdoses during lockdowns.
The term ‘excess deaths’ refers to the number of deaths during a crisis above and beyond what would have been expected under ‘normal’ conditions, thus including directly and indirectly attributed to Covid-19.
Covid-19, which had killed some 260,000 Americans this year as of December 14, is on track to become the third leading cause of death this year, after heart disease and cancer.
While lockdowns and business closures have become a thing of the past as the pandemic has subsided, they have left an indelible mark on American society.
Deaths from heart disease have tended to rise along with deaths from covid, in part because the virus worsens the underlying condition and affects the heart, increasing the risk of heart disease.
The pandemic has also caused a drop in the number of people seeing their doctors for preventive care, including screening for heart disease.
Cancer diagnoses have also risen significantly due to lockdowns restricting people’s ability to maintain healthy lives and the inclination of many to forego preventative care services because they did not want to overburden hospitals dealing with a rush. of covid patients.
Excess deaths refer to the number of deaths during a crisis beyond what would have been expected under “normal” conditions. In this case, epidemiologists are interested in deaths directly and indirectly attributed to Covid-19.
There was approximately 30,000 excess deaths from coronary disease, an average of 230 per week above the expected mortality rate, between March 2020 and August 2022.
Meanwhile, deaths from cancer also marked above normal during the pandemic. The number of cancer-related deaths was about 686,000 in 2020, up from 664,888 in 2019, an annual increase of 3.2%.
Conditions that worsened during the pandemic
Heart disease: there was approximately 30,000 excess deaths from coronary disease, an average of 230 per week above the expected mortality rate, between March 2020 and August 2022.
Alzheimer’s deaths increased during the pandemic: More than 41,000 extra deaths from Alzheimer’s or other occurred in 2020
Drug overdose deaths and suicides are up: The CDC estimates there were a total of 109,673 overdose deaths in the year from April 2021 to April 2022, a new record
Cancer deaths are up: The number of cancer-related deaths was approximately 686,000 in 2020, up from 664,888 in 2019, an annual increase of 3.2%.
Weekly deaths from high blood pressure have grown by up to 70 percent since the start of the pandemic
Ahmad said it is not clear if the number of cancer deaths will also change based on the preliminary data.
Dr. Amira Roes, an epidemiologist and global health expert at George Mason University, said: “We are (still) definitely worse than before the pandemic.”
Meanwhile, pharmaceutical interventions such as vaccines and Pfizer’s antiviral drug Paxlovid have been credited with averting 3.2 million deaths.
“We would all really expect the number of deaths, and the number of severe cases, to go down, due to a combination of immunity from natural infection and vaccination… and treatment,” Dr. Roes said.
High excess mortality occurred due to drug overdoses and suicides, often referred to as deaths of despair. Overdose deaths reached an all-time high last year.
The CDC estimates that there were a total of 109,673 overdose deaths in the year from April 2021 to April 2022, a new record.
And the provisional death count is likely an underestimate, the CDC said, because drug overdoses can take months to register.
But provisional federal data reflecting the first seven months of 2022 suggests overdose deaths stopped rising early this year, around the end of last winter.
The number of excess deaths in the US in 2022 will remain high, but it is projected not to reach those recorded in the last two years of the pandemic.
Preliminary data indicates that deaths from all causes this year will be down about 3 percent from 2020, but will still be much higher than before the 2019 pandemic, when nearly 2.9 million Americans died.
More than 2.9 million deaths so far this year have been linked to the pandemic, but not directly caused by covid-19.