New Journal Articles Look at Provisional 2020 COVID-19 Death Data

Summary

COVIDJAMA released a new journal article, “Provisional Mortality Data — United States, 2020,” which presents an overview of provisional U.S. death data for 2020, including overall death rates and those associated with COVID-19. In 2020, more than 3.3 million deaths occurred in the United States overall.).  As part of overall U.S. deaths, COVID-19 was the underlying cause of 345,000 deaths and was the underlying or contributing cause of 377,000 deaths. COVID-19 death rates were lowest among children aged 1–4 and 5–14 years and were highest among those aged 85 years or older. COVID-19 death rates were highest among males, older adults, AI/AN, and Hispanic persons. COVID-19–associated death rates were lowest for multiracial and Asian persons. COVID-19 ranked as the third leading cause of death, following heart disease (690,000 deaths) and cancer (598,000).

Another journal article was released in MMWR, “Death Certificate-based ICD-10 Diagnosis Codes for COVID-19 Mortality Surveillance—United States, January – December 2020,” which looks at the accuracy of death certificates for COVID-19 mortality surveillance in the United States.  Approximately 375,000 deaths during 2020 were attributed to COVID-19 on death certificates reported to CDC. Concerns have been raised that some deaths are being improperly attributed to COVID-19. Analysis of International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision (ICD-10) diagnoses on official death certificates might provide an expedient and efficient method to demonstrate whether reported COVID-19 deaths are being overestimated. CDC assessed documentation of diagnoses co-occurring with an ICD-10 code for COVID-19 (U07.1) on U.S. death certificates from 2020 that had been reported to CDC as of February 22, 2021.

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