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2020 may have been deadliest year in US history with 3.2m deaths

Preliminary figures suggests 2020 will be the deadliest year in U.S. history.

A record 3,260,397 people died last year, which public health experts says is due to COVID-19, indirect pandemic deaths and overdoses.  

That figure is about 15 percent higher than the 2,835,533 Americans who died in 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  

What's more, the early data shows April 2020 was the deadliest month with more than 322,000 deaths, nearly 10 percent of all deaths for that year. 

Among other deadly years in American history include 1,430,079 deaths in 1918, the year of the Spanish Flu pandemic and the end of World War I; 1,459,544 deaths in 1943, the deadliest year of World War II and 1,930,082 deaths in 1968 at the height of the Vietnam War. 

It comes on the heels of new working paper, which found that the economic fallout from the pandemic could lead to 890,000 more U.S. deaths over the next 15 years. 

Preliminary CDC figures suggest 2020 will be the deadliest year in U.S. history with more than 3.2 million deaths (above)

The 2020 death toll (blue line) is approximately 15% higher than the 2,835,533 Americans who died in 2019 (purple line)

It includes more than 347,000 people in the U.S. who died of COVID-19 in 2020, a death toll that has since risen to more than 406,000

'That is not a seasonal change or just a random bad year,' Dr Jeremy Faust, an emergency physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital, told USA TODAY. 

'That is what every person who can correctly attest to these numbers can plainly see is a historic increase in excess mortality. 

'If we put that together with the number of coronavirus deaths, it's game, set, match.'  

Some of the deaths are due to the common causes of deaths: cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and lung disease.

However, the toll of the pandemic cannot be understated.

In 2020, 347,341 people in the U.S. died due to COVID-19, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. 

Since then, more than 58,000 people have died from the virus, raising the death toll to more than 406,000 - higher than the number of Americans who died in World War I, the Korean War and the Vietnam War combined. 

In addition, an October 2020 study from Virginia Commonwealth and Yale universities found that nearly 75,000 deaths were indirectly caused by the pandemic.

Researchers say that, due to social distancing measures and the increasing demand place on hospitals, people may have delayed seeking life-saving medical care. 

Co-author Dr Steven Woolf, director emeritus of the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, says the high number may also be due to emotional crises or death certificates mislabeling a cause of death as due to COVID-19.

He estimates the true number of excess deaths his paper was published  may be closer to 500,000.

'That's based on where we are right now, and unfortunately, we're seeing the numbers climbing, so the concern is obviously that we're going to end up with more excess deaths than that,' he told USA TODAY.

One study found an additional 75,000 people died indirectly due to the pandemic such as delaying seeking life-saving medical care (above)

Deaths have also been increasing due to a rise in overdose fatalities.

More than 81,000 fatalities occurred in the 12-month period ending in May 2020, a nearly 20 percent rise from the 12-month period ending in June 2019, according to an advisory from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Additionally, in 25 states, opioid-related deaths have soared by more than 20 percent over the 12-month period.

Health experts say the pandemic has created the perfect breeding ground for addiction with many turning to opioids to cope with job losses and the deaths of loved ones to the programs being canceled or replaced with telemedicine for those trying to maintain sobriety.

The disruption to daily life due to the COVID-19 pandemic has hit those with substance use disorder hard,' said then-CDC Director Dr Robert Redfield in a statement.

'As we continue the fight to end this pandemic, it's important to not lose sight of different groups being affected in other ways. We need to take care of people suffering from unintended consequences.'

More than 81,000 drug overdoses deaths have occurred in the U.S. over the 12-month period ending in May 2020 (far left)

Only four states have reported a decrease in overdose deaths, and 25 states have reported increases of more than 20% 

It comes as a new working paper suggests the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic could lead to an elevated mortality rate in the U.S.

Researchers from Duke, Harvard and Johns Hopkins universities, found that the country's mortality rate could increase by 3 percent over the next 15 years.

At the same time, life expectancy could drop to 0.5 percent, translating into an additional 890,000 deaths.  

The economic crisis will also disproportionately affect the black community, with 33 out of every 100,000 African Americans dying. 

'African-Americans experience larger unemployment shocks and the effects of these shocks on unemployment are more persistent,' the researchers wrote. 

'The effects on life expectancy and death rates are more severe for African-Americans, overall.

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