According to a new provisional report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COVID-19 was the third-leading cause of death last year in the United States, behind heart disease and cancer, and ahead of unintentional injury and stroke.
COVID-19 deaths accounted for 11.6% of the 3.36 million deaths in the United States in 2020 – about 375,000 deaths – according to data compiled by the National Vital Statistics System, published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) released Wednesday.
The death rate increased about 16% in 2020, and death rates were highest among Black Americans and Native Americans. The COVID-19 death rate, according to the report, was highest among Hispanic Americans.
The full top 10 list of causes of death, according to the report:
- Heart disease
- Unintentional injury
- Chronic lower respiratory disease
- Alzheimer's disease
- Influenza and pneumonia
- Kidney disease
"COVID-19 was the third leading underlying cause of death in 2020, replacing suicide as one of the top 10 leading causes of death," researchers wrote.
At a White House COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky addressed the figures in the report, specifically making mention of the higher rates among non-white American populations.
"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 noted, urging Americans continue following health guidelines to mitigate COVID-19 and get vaccinated as soon as they can.
"We are so close, so very close to getting back to the every day activites we miss so much, but we’re not quite there yet," Dr. Walensky said, calling this a "critical moment in fight against the pandemic" and noting that Americans "can’t afford to let our guard down."
Dr. Walensky noted that this week, the U.S. will hit the milestone of 100 million people receiving at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, with over 70% of people over 65 – which she called the "most vulnerable group" – have received at least one dose.
"It’s up to us, it’s up to all of us," Dr. Walensky said, adding: "Thank you for hanging in there with us for just a little bit longer."