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March 2020 to January 2021 Saw 23 Percent Jump in Mortality

THURSDAY, April 8, 2021 -- There was a 22.9 percent increase in all-cause mortality reported in the United States from March 1, 2020, through Jan. 2, 2021, according to a research letter published online April 2 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Steven H. Woolf, M.D., M.P.H., from the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine in Richmond, and colleagues used mortality data from 2014 to 2019 to predict U.S. expected deaths in 2020 and compared them to observed deaths in weeks ending March 1, 2020, through Jan. 2, 2021. All deaths for which COVID-19 was cited as an underlying or contributing cause were included as COVID-19 deaths.

The researchers found that the United States experienced 2,801,439 deaths between March 1, 2020, and Jan. 2, 2021 -- 22.9 percent more than anticipated, representing 522,368 excess deaths. The excess death rate was higher for non-Hispanic Blacks (208.4 per 100,000) compared with non-Hispanic White or Hispanic populations (157.0 and 139.8 deaths per 100,000, respectively), with these groups accounting for 16.9, 61.1, and 16.7 percent of excess deaths, respectively. The largest relative increase in all-cause mortality was experienced by New York (38.1 percent). Overall, 72.4 percent of U.S. excess deaths were attributed to COVID-19.

"COVID-19 accounted for roughly 72 percent of the excess deaths we're calculating, and that's similar to what our earlier studies showed," Woolf said in a statement. "There is a sizable gap between the number of publicly reported COVID-19 deaths and the sum total of excess deaths the country has actually experienced."

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