More than two years after the pandemic began, there is a bit of good news on death rates in the United States: They should be lower this year than during the past two years once final numbers are tallied.
Still, they have not dropped to levels seen before COVID swept across the country, preliminary data shows.
Deaths are expected to remain about 13% higher than 2019 numbers for 2022. But they should be 7% lower than in 2021 and 3% lower than in 2020, based on an estimate of the first 11 months of 2022, the Associated Press reported.
Though the death rate typically goes up annually as the population grows, so many people died during the first two years of the pandemic that it sped the pace.
Unless there is a big surge this month, this could be the first annual decline since 2009, the AP reported.
“We're [still] definitely worse off than we were before the pandemic,” Amira Roess, a George Mason University professor of epidemiology and global health, told the AP.
COVID will remain the third-largest killer for 2022, behind heart disease and cancer, even with the reduced numbers.
The deadliest year in U.S. history was 2021, with 3.4 million deaths, the AP reported.
Still, the U.S. COVID-19 vaccination program has prevented more than 3.2 million deaths since it began in late 2020, according to a modeling study released this week from the Commonwealth Fund.
“We all really would expect that the number of deaths — and the number of severe cases — would decrease, due to a combination of immunity from natural infection and vaccination ... and treatment,” Roess said.
COVID has killed more than 1.1 million Americans, the AP reported, including 73,000 deaths alone in January, despite the overall lowered numbers this year.
That was the third deadliest month since the beginning of the pandemic, the AP reported.
“The bulk of mortality was concentrated during that Omicron wave at the beginning of the year,” Iliya Gutin, a University of Texas researcher tracking COVID mortality, told the AP.
Heart disease deaths have also risen, though they, too, will be down from 2021, said Farida Ahmad, who leads mortality surveillance at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Preliminary data did not reveal whether the number of cancer deaths would change. However, provisional drug overdose death rates for the first seven months of 2022 suggest those numbers stopped rising early this year.
The World Health Organization has more on global cases of COVID-19.
SOURCE: Associated Press