Coronavirus third leading cause of death in 2020, CDC report says

COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death in 2020, behind heart disease and cancer

The novel coronavirus was the third leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2020, according to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Wednesday. 

The CDC in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) said COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death last year behind heart disease and cancer. Overall, the novel disease was behind some 375,000 deaths in 2020, the report reads. 

To establish COVID-19 as the third leading cause of death among Americans in 2020, the CDC looked at provisional death certificate data for deaths among U.S. citizens between January-December 2020. 

"The numbers and rates of overall deaths and COVID-19 deaths were assessed by age, sex, race/ethnicity," such as Hispanic, non-Hispanic, White, Black, Asian and beyond, the CDC wrote. 

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The federal agency in its report determined that COVID-19 was the underlying cause of about 91% of COVID-19-associated deaths in 2020, with the age-adjusted death rate increasing by 15.9% in 2020 overall. 

"Overall deaths were highest among non-Hispanics Black persons and non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native persons," the CDC said, noting that the COVID-19 death rate was highest among Hispanics." COVID-19 death rates were also highest among males and older adults, namely those 85 years of age or older. 

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These findings support the accuracy of COVID-19 mortality surveillance in the United States using official death certificates, the CDC said. 

"These data can guide public health policies and interventions aimed at reducing numbers of deaths that are directly or indirectly associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and among persons most affected, including those who are older, male, or from disproportionality racial/ethnic minority groups," the CDC concluded.