Health and Medicine

Deaths in the U.S. rose 23% because of the pandemic in 2020, VCU study finds

By Eric Kolenich, Richmond Times Dispatch

In the first 10 months of the pandemic, 2.8 million people died in the United States, a 23% increase over a typical timespan, according to a Virginia Commonwealth University study published Friday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The number of deaths is predictable from one year to the next. It typically fluctuates between 1 to 2%. But in 2020, there were 520,000 more deaths than normal nationwide and almost 10,000 in Virginia, which experts call “excess deaths.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, life expectancy in the U.S. dropped from 78.8 years in 2019 to 77.8 by the middle of 2020, the largest drop in life expectancy since 1943, during World War II.

The death rate was highest among Black populations, according to the study, which was led by Dr. Stephen Woolf, a VCU professor of family medicine and population health. The report tracked deaths from the beginning of March to the end of 2020 and updates the results of two previous reports directed by Woolf.


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