The United States has recorded one million ‘excess deaths’ since the state of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports.
Generally, death figures within a country will stay the same year-over-year, with small miniscule changes due to population growth. The same amount of people that die of cancer in one country in one year than did the year previous, for example.
Massive changes to death numbers usually indicate some major casualty event – like a global pandemic. Not all of the excess deaths are directly attributable to the virus, though.
Only around 91 percent of deaths since the pandemic first began were caused by Covid, according to official CDC numbers – which often lag behind real figures. The other excess deaths are ancillary to the pandemic, mainly caused by disruptions of medical care during Covid.
Large increases in deaths caused by heart disease, dementia and drug overdoses – among other causes – were also recorded during the pandemic.
Most recent figures from Johns Hopkins University report that 927,716 Americans have died from COVID-19.
There is generally little change year-to-year in deaths in the U.S., but the COVID-19 pandemic caused a surge of excess deaths to occur since it first began in early 2020. At its peak, the country was recording 45% more deaths than usual. Pictured: The blue bars represent the number of recorded deaths in each week. The orange line represents the expected number of deaths, while the red line shows the highest possible death figure before deaths go into the ‘excess death’ category. Every blue bar that surpasses the red line represents a week where the U.S. recorded excess Covid deaths
While Covid accounts for 90% of excess deaths in the U.S., there was also a surge in deaths caused by heart and cognitive conditions. There was a large surge of heart related deaths at the start of the pandemic, though one expert believes these could be undiagnosed Covid deaths
Pictured: Excess deaths per week, by cause, in 2020
Pictured: Excess deaths per week, by cause, in 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic began in mid-March 2020, nearly two years ago. The first known death from the virus in the U.S. was recorded weeks before that in early February, and deaths in January of that year were retroactively discovered to be from the virus.
Before the pandemic, America averaged around 2.8 million deaths from all causes every year.
Americans also die more frequently in winter as well, with CDC data showing a clear pre-pandemic trend of deaths dipping during summer before rising again in the months early in the year.
The week ending on March 28, 2020 was the first week where weekly deaths in America started to creep above expected totals.
In April, they began to rocket above expectations, especially in major population centers like New York and Chicago. At the peak of the spring surge, America was recording 36 percent more deaths than a typical week.
While summer generally leads to a dip in U.S. deaths. In summer 2020 deaths rapidly began to rise again as the nation was struck with its first summer Covid surge. At this point, the nation was suffering a 20 percent increase in deaths compared to a usual year.
Covid reached its worst point in late 2020 and early 2021, when a devastating winter surge tore through the population just as vaccines started to become available. During this surge, the nation was recording upwards of 45 percent more deaths than usual every week.
For a period in spring and summer of 2021, America’s weekly death figures returned to normal. At this time, it looked like the pandemic was nearing an end as a large portion of the population was vaccinated and case and death figured started to dwindle.
Then the Delta variant arrived. It caused another massive surge, the second most deadly yet for the U.S. during the pandemic. At the peak of the Delta surge, the U.S. was recording around 40 percent more deaths than usual.
This is also another example of deaths in the U.S. surging overs summer despite that time of the year generally being less deadly for Americans.
While deaths did not keep up with cases during the recent Omicron COVID-19 surge – there was still a 20 percent uptick in total mortality when compared to a usual winter.
In total, over 90 percent of these excess deaths were caused by Covid itself. All deaths from the virus are still categorized as excess because it virtually did not exist until early 2020.
The CDC reports that deaths from heart disease, high blood pressure and cognitive disease like Alzheimer’s and dementia also surged during the pandemic.
Heart disease in particular caused a surge of deaths early on, with deaths caused by the condition up 30 percent during the early weeks of the pandemic.
This could have been caused by hospitals being caught off-guard by a surge of Covid patients and not having the resources necessary to treat patients suffering from heart conditions.
Robert Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch at the CDC also told the Washington Post that some of these deaths could have been caused by undiagnosed cases of Covid. At the time, Covid tests were in extremely short supply as well.
There was also a jump in the number of Americans dying from high blood pressure during the early stages of the pandemic. Weekly deaths from the condition grew by up to 70 percent during that period, the CDC reports.
Drug overdoses reached record figures as well, with the CDC reporting this week that more than 104,000 Americans died from an overdose between September 2020 and 2021.
Arizona has suffered the largest excess death burden of any state in America, with the CDC reporting that the state has suffered a 26 percent increase in deaths during the pandemic when compared to expected totals.
In total, 11 U.S. states have suffered more than 20 percent more deaths that expected during the pandemic: Mississippi (24 percent increase in deaths), Wyoming (24 percent), New Mexico (23 percent), New York (23 percent), Texas (23 percent), Alaska (21 percent), Georgia (21 percent), Alabama (20 percent), Louisiana (20 percent) and Montana (20 percent).