US has seen nearly 300K more deaths than usual amid Covid-19, CDC says Hispanics and Latinos most impacted
Blacks and Hispanics account for more than 4 out of 10 Covid-19 deaths despite representing about 3 out of 10 in the US population
Close to 300,000 more Americans have died this year during the coronavirus pandemic than expected, and two-thirds of these deaths are due to Covid-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has revealed that from late January through October 3 this year, the US had 299,028 more deaths than the typical number during the same period in previous years (excess deaths), with 198,081 (66%) excess deaths attributed to Covid-19, and the remaining third to other causes. The largest percentage increases were seen among people who were Hispanic or Latino, and adults aged 25-44 years.
Measures of excess deaths have been used to estimate the impact of public health pandemics or disasters. Excess deaths are typically defined as the number of persons who have died from all causes, more than the expected number of deaths for a given place and time. The research team does not give specific explanations for the excess deaths but says that they expect the deaths to include those related directly or indirectly to Covid-19. According to them, as of October 15, 216,025 deaths from coronavirus have been reported in the US, but this number might underestimate the total impact of the pandemic on deaths.
For the current study, weekly numbers of deaths by age group, and race/ethnicity [Hispanic or Latino, non-Hispanic White, non-Hispanic Black or African American, non-Hispanic Asian, non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native (AI/AN)], and other/unknown race/ethnicity, were used to examine the difference between the weekly number of deaths occurring in 2020 and the average number occurring in the same week during 2015-2019. These values were used to calculate an average percentage change in 2020, over the period of analysis, by age group, race, and ethnicity.
The analysis suggests that at least two out of three of the excess deaths were from Covid-19. Excess deaths reached their highest points to date during the weeks ending April 11 (40.4% excess) and August 8 (23.5% excess). The total number of excess deaths from January 26 through October 3 ranged from a low of approximately 841 in the youngest age group (less than 25 years) to a high of 94,646 among adults aged 75-84 years. However, the average percentage change in deaths over this period compared with previous years was largest for adults aged 25-44 years (26.5%). Overall, numbers of deaths among persons aged less than 25 years were 2% below average, and among adults aged 45-64, 65-74 years, 75-84, and 85 years or older were 14.4%, 24.1%, 21.5%, and 14.7% above average, respectively.
“The age distribution of Covid-19 deaths shifted toward younger age groups from May through August. However, these disproportionate increases might also be related to underlying trends in other causes of death. Future analyses might shed light on the extent to which increases among younger age groups are driven by Covid-19 or by other causes of death,” write authors.
When examined by race and ethnicity, the total number of excess deaths during the study period ranged from a low of approximately 3,412 among AI/AN persons to a high of 171,491 among White persons. For White persons, deaths were 11.9% higher when compared to average numbers during 2015-2019. However, some racial and ethnic subgroups experienced disproportionately higher percentage increases in deaths. Specifically, the average percentage increase over this period was the largest for Hispanic persons (53.6%). Deaths were 28.9% above average for AI/AN persons, 32.9% above average for Black persons, 34.6% above average for those of other or unknown race or ethnicity, and 36.6% above average for Asian persons.
According to the investigators, the results inform efforts to prevent death directly or indirectly associated with the Covid-19 pandemic, such as efforts to minimize disruptions to healthcare. “These results provide more information about deaths during the pandemic and inform public health messaging and mitigation efforts focused on the prevention of infection and mortality directly or indirectly associated with the Covid-19 pandemic and the elimination of health inequities. CDC continues to recommend the use of masks, frequent handwashing, and maintenance of social distancing to prevent Covid-19,” emphasizes the report.
Disparities have increased
The disproportionate increases among certain racial and ethnic groups in the CDC study are consistent with noted disparities in Covid-19 deaths, according to experts. Racial and ethnic disparities among Covid-19 deaths have persisted throughout the pandemic and continue to increase among Hispanic persons, suggests another report. It shows that African-Americans and Hispanics or Latinos account for more than 4 out of 10 deaths despite representing about 3 out of 10 in the US population.
Analysis of 114,411 Covid-19-associated deaths, reported to National Vital Statistics System during May-August 2020, found that 51.3% of those who died were non-Hispanic White, 24.2% were Hispanic or Latino, and 18.7% were non-Hispanic Black. The percentage of Hispanic people who died from coronavirus increased from 16.3% in May to 26.4% in August. Hispanics were the only racial and ethnic group among whom the overall percentage of deaths increased.
“While a small decrease (2.9 percentage points between May and August) in decedents who were Black was observed, Black persons still accounted for 18.7% of overall deaths despite representing just 12.5% of the US population. Similarly, Hispanic persons were disproportionately represented: 24.2% of decedents were Hispanic compared with 18.5% of the US population,” the team explains.
The authors suggest that inequities in the social determinants of health can lead to increased risk for coronavirus exposure among some racial and ethnic groups. For example, persons from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups may be more likely to live in multigenerational and multifamily households, reside in congregate living environments, hold jobs requiring in-person work (such as meatpacking, agriculture, service, and healthcare), and have limited access to health care, or experience discrimination. Differences in the prevalence of underlying conditions (such as diabetes and obesity) among racial and ethnic groups may also be associated with increased susceptibility to Covid-19-associated complications and death, the researchers conclude.