COVID-19 Was Third Leading Cause of Death in U.S. in 2021

Two new reports included in this week’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explored death rates in the U.S., finding persistent disparities between certain racial and ethnic minority groups.

The first report provides an overview of provisional U.S. mortality data for 2021, including a comparison of death rates for all causes of death and for deaths involving COVID-19. The study found that the overall age-adjusted death rate increased by almost one percent from 2020. Overall death rates were highest among non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native and non-Hispanic Black or African American people. For the second year, COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death following heart disease and cancer.

The second report indicates that from 2020 to 2021, differences in COVID-19 death rates decreased among most racial and ethnic groups. This report found disparities in age-adjusted COVID-19 death rates decreased by 14 percent to 40 percent for most racial and ethnic groups, including non-Hispanic White people, and increased non-significantly for non-Hispanic Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander persons compared with non-Hispanic multiracial people.

The CDC notes that both studies highlight the need for greater effort to implement effective interventions and ensure equal treatment in all communities in proportion to their need for effective interventions that can prevent excess COVID-19 deaths.

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