CDC Confirms COVID-19 was the Third Leading Cause of Death in 2020

April 7, 2021
Briana Contreras

Covid-19 was the third leading cause of death in the United States last year, after heart disease and cancer, according to provisional data recently released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Covid-19 was the third leading cause of death in the United States last year, after heart disease and cancer, according to provisional data recently released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The death rate from 2019 to 2020 increased by 15.9%, going up from 715.2 to 828.7 deaths per 100,000 people, according to the report. The early data showed that the top 10 leading causes of death in 2020 were:

  1. Heart disease
  2. Cancer
  3. Covid-19
  4. Unintentional injury
  5. Stroke
  6. Chronic lower respiratory disease
  7. Alzheimer's disease
  8. Diabetes
  9. Influenza and pneumonia
  10. Kidney disease

Researchers at the National Center for Health Statistics analyzed death certificate data from the National Vital Statistics System, taking a close look at deaths among US residents between January and December of 2020.

COVID-19 was the third leading underlying cause of death in 2020, replacing suicide as one of the top 10 leading causes of death," the researchers wrote in the report. Suicide previously was the 10th leading cause of death but was bumped off the list for 2020 as deaths due to Covid-19 climbed.

The researchers found in their report that about 3.36 million deaths occurred last year. Covid-19 was reported as the underlying cause or a contributing cause of death for nearly 378,000 - or about 11.3% - of those deaths. The data showed heart disease caused 690,882 deaths and cancer caused 598,932 deaths.

The data also showed, overall, death rates were highest among the Black and Native American or Alaska Native communities, adults ages 85 and older and men. The Covid-19 death rate specifically was highest among Hispanics, according to the CDC report. The data are provisional - and so numbers and death rates might change as additional information is received. Since investigating causes of death takes time, final data for a given year are typically published about 11 months after the end of the calendar year.

Seth Rubenstein, executive director of US & Canada at Multimedia Care said business leaders, managers, coaches, influencers of all kinds should be encouraging their audiences to wear masks until further notice from the experts. He adds public safety mandates from government officials shouldn’t even be necessary.

“Any temporary inconveniences we may experience from properly wearing masks in public, along with washing hands, avoiding the exchange of air with non-family members, and getting vaccinated, are all minor in comparison to the potential far-reaching good that comes from such incredibly simple gestures," Rubenstein said. "We should be encouraging all messages that help us remember — please, pandemic responsibly."