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CDC: COVID-19 was third-leading cause of death in U.S. in 2020

COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death in the United States in 2020 after the pandemic coronavirus swept across the country, including in New York City, where medical workers are shown loading a body into a hearse in March 2020. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/83e60813c4553cca88c2010b31533259/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death in the United States in 2020 after the pandemic coronavirus swept across the country, including in New York City, where medical workers are shown loading a body into a hearse in March 2020. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

March 31 (UPI) -- COVID-19 was the third-leading cause of death in the United States in 2020, trailing only heart disease and cancer, according to figures released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The virus caused nearly 378,000 deaths, or 11%, of the estimated 3.36 million deaths nationally in 2020, the data showed.

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As a result, the virus contributed to a 16% spike in the country's death rate, which rose to 829 deaths per 100,000 people in the general population last year, up from 715 per 100,000 in 2019, the agency said.

In comparison, heart disease killed roughly 700,000 people in the United States in 2020, while cancer was the cause of some 600,000 deaths, the CDC estimated.

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While COVID-19 replaced suicide in the top 10 leading causes of death -- suicide was 10th in 2019 -- agency researchers say the number of deaths linked to the coronavirus may actually be higher.

However, "limited availability of testing for [the coronavirus], the virus that causes COVID-19, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic might have resulted in an underestimation of COVID-19-associated deaths," the researchers said.

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Among those who died from the disease, which first emerged in China in late 2019, 95% had at least one other cause listed on their death certificate, a separate analysis by the agency revealed.

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Thirty-four percent of the COVID-19 deaths also were attributed to complications caused by the virus, most commonly pneumonia and respiratory failure.

In addition, up to 80% of those who died from the virus had at least one underlying health condition that contributed to their deaths, most commonly high blood pressure, diabetes and dementia.

Nearly one-third of those in the United States who died from COVID-19, or roughly 121,000 people, were age 85 years old and older, while just over 104,000 were 75 to 84 and 81,000 were between 65 and 74, the data showed. Fewer than 200 people who died from the virus were 18 or younger.

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About 54% of the people who died from COVID-19 last year were male, and 60% were White.

However, just under 19% of those who died were Hispanic American and 16% were Black American, two groups that make up 18% and 13% of the U.S. population, respectively, the data showed.

"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 disproportionately affected racial/ethnic minority groups," the agency researchers wrote.

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