What? The impression most people have is that because of COVID-19 an almost incomprehensible number of Americans died in 2020. Well, not really.

The CDC tracks all deaths in the US and reports a Mortality Rate for each year. Mortality Rate is the number of deaths compared to the total number of people. Most agencies, the CDC included, use Deaths per 100,000. Here is a graph from the CDC website that shows the mortality rate for 2019 and 2020:

CDC Mortality Rate, 2019 – 2018. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/vsrr/mortality-dashboard.htm

So – where is the huge COVID spike?

The data is even more interesting when you look at mortality rate over the long term. When we do that we discover that the 2020 mortality rate was lower than it was for any year before 2004 (all years without COVID-19):

There is an uptick in 2020, but that number (828.7 deaths/100,000) was still lower than the mortality rate in 2003 (843.5). I was alive in 2003, and our economy wasn’t disrupted, our lives weren’t upended, and we didn’t live in constant fear. And I can only imagine living during the 1918 flu pandemic, where the death rate was 2,542 deaths / 100,000!

Look it up yourself. Here are the CDC links for the data used for this article:

CDC National Center for Health Statistics “Mortality Dashboard” – First graph that appears in this article

CDC – Mortality Trends in the United States, 1900–2018 – Mortality for years 1900 through 2018. Also allows you to download the data as a csv file.

CDC – Provisional Mortality Data — United States, 2020 – Mortality for years 2019 and 2020

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