CDC reports show COVID-19 was third-leading cause of death in 2021

For the second year, COVID-19 trailed only heart disease and cancer as a cause of death
(FDA graphic)

ATLANTA, Ga. (WKBT) — COVID-19 was the third-leading cause of death in the United States in 2021 for the second year, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That finding was among several in two studies Friday in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The reports, which used the CDC’s National Vital Statistics System to examine U.S. death rates, also found that differences in death rates continue between certain racial and ethnic minority groups.

The first report provides an overview of provisional U.S. mortality data for 2021, including a comparison of death rates for all causes of death and those involving COVID-19.

The overall age-adjusted death rate increased by almost 1% in 2021 from 2020, according to one report. Overall death rates were highest among non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaskan Native and non-Hispanic Black or African American people.

For the second year, COVID-19 was the third-leading cause of death, after heart disease and cancer.

Between 2020 and 2021, differences in COVID-19 death rates decreased among most racial and ethnic groups, the second report revealed.

But the report found that disparities in the age-adjusted COVID-19 death rates decreased by 14% to 40% for most racial and ethnic groups, including non-Hispanic White people, who accounted for 60% to 65% of all people who died. They increased 7.2% for non-Hispanic Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islanders, compared with non-Hispanic multiracial individuals.

The results of both studies underscore the need for greater effort for effective interventions, CDC officials said.

“We must work to ensure equal treatment in all communities in proportion to their need for effective interventions that can prevent excess COVID-19 deaths,” they said.

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