Study Finds Rise in US Deaths Beyond COVID-19 in 2020


Upwards of 267,000 people have so far died in the U.S. from the novel coronavirus, and experts have fatalistic predictions about more infections throughout the winter.

But it’s not just the coronavirus that’s killing people.

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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign computer scientist Sheldon Jacobson and Dr. Janet Jokela, acting dean of the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Urbana, examined Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data from March through May, the period early in the pandemic when states like Illinois had stay-at-home orders in effect.

When they compared that 2020 timeframe with 2019, they found 30% “excess” deaths, not counting cases in which the deceased had tested positive for COVID-19. These “excess” non-COVID-19 deaths were most apparent in men ages 15 to 54 and women ages 25 to 44.

There’s one statistically significant exception: Girls between the age of 5 and 14, who Jacobson and Jokela said were “protected,” perhaps because young girls typically die most from accidents, and with families staying at home, girls weren’t getting in accidents.

It’s unclear what’s behind the excess deaths, though Jokela has hypotheses: Perhaps early on, coronavirus deaths weren’t detected; perhaps people with heart conditions avoided going to the doctor or halted cancer screenings; or it may have been related to an increased in opioid use.

She said it’s important to drill deeper to find the causes so these unmet medical needs can be addressed — and deaths can hopefully be prevented.

Jacobson said a paucity of national coronavirus data is a major challenge, but he hopes that will change with President-elect Joe Biden’s promise for more comprehensive data.

Follow Amanda Vinicky on Twitter: @AmandaVinicky


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