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COVID-19 Drove 25% Increase in U.S. Deaths in January

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The total number of U.S. deaths from all causes was about 25% higher in January than it was in January 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic began increasing the mortality rate.

The 50 states, New York City and the District of Columbia reported 374,225 deaths to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the period from Jan. 2 through Feb. 5.

That was down 10% from the total for the comparable period in 2021, when a deadly wave of COVID-19 cases swept the country, but it was up from 298,247 for the comparable period in 2020.

The figures mean that the number of U.S. excess deaths, from all causes, was about 75,000 in the first five weeks of the year, down from about 116,000 in the comparable period in 2021.

The CDC has classified 100,433 of the deaths recorded in the first five weeks of this year as being from COVID-19, and 129,027 as from COVID-19, pneumonia or influenza. The number of deaths caused by COVID-19, pneumonia or flu was 129,027 in the comparable period in 2021, and 22,423 in the comparable period in 2020.

Many jurisdictions take several weeks to send the CDC complete mortality data, and there are signs that the numbers are taking longer to flow into the provisional death reports than usual. The latest reports, for example, include data for all of February for many states, but they include no 2022 data for the District of Columbia or Puerto Rico.

The figures include deaths caused directly by COVID-19, deaths caused by the effects of the pandemic on the health care system, and deaths caused by the effects of the pandemic and pandemic-related restrictions on society as a whole.

Comparisons With Projections

Aegon executives said last month, on their conference call for the fourth quarter of 2021, that they are speculating that the U.S. might have about 300,000 COVID-19 deaths this year.

Globe Life executives have said their midpoint COVID-19 mortality assumption for 2022 is 145,000 deaths, with most of the deaths occurring in the first half of the year.

Age and Mortality

The CDC has another batch of data, broken down by age, that shows that the latest wave of COVID-19 was especially hard on U.S. residents ages 75 and older: Between Dec. 26, 2020, and Jan. 29, confirmed cases of the disease caused 134 deaths per 100,000 people ages 75 and older. That means that in just over a month, the disease killed about 1 in 750 people in that age group.

Health insurers have reported facing higher pandemic-related prevention and treatment costs during the latest wave.

Information about the effects on life insurance claims is not yet available.

For retirement specialists, the January wave raises the possibility that increased uncertainty about older clients’ life expectancy continues amid the availability of COVID-19 vaccines and vaccine booster problems.

State Numbers

State numbers show that changes in the number of deaths between January 2020 and January 2022 ranged from a decrease of 39%, in South Dakota, up to an increase of more than 40% in three Mid-Atlantic states, with a median increase of 27%.

For the five states with the biggest increases, see the gallery above.

For data for all 50 states, the District of Columbia and New York City, see the chart below.

All-Cause Mortality for the First Five Weeks of the Year

2020 2021 2022 Change: 2021 over 2020 Change: 2022 over 2020
Alabama 5,330 8,577 7,221 +61% +35%
Alaska 475 519 429 +9% -10%
Arizona 6,547 11,377 9,371 +74% +43%
Arkansas 3,313 4,649 4,405 +40% +33%
California 29,109 52,289 35,519 +80% +22%
Colorado 4,220 4,935 5,601 +17% +33%
Connecticut 3,242 4,171 3,978 +29% +23%
Delaware 956 1374 1406 +44% +47%
District of Columbia 674 854 NA +27% NA
Florida 21,942 28,143 26,916 +28% +23%
Georgia 8,982 14,394 11,385 +60% +27%
Hawaii 1,183 1,133 1,386 -4% +17%
Idaho 1,387 1,681 1,911 +21% +38%
Illinois 11,010 13,284 15,531 +21% +41%
Indiana 7,047 8,923 9,019 +27% +28%
Iowa 3,187 3,,595 3,849 +13% +21%
Kansas 2,847 3,623 4,048 +27% +42%
Kentucky 5,114 6,445 5,950 +26% +16%
Louisiana 4,801 6,630 5,223 +38% +9%
Maine 1,529 1,699 1,935 +11% +27%
Maryland 5,109 6,750 7,028 +32% +38%
Massachusetts 6,201 7,720 7,862 +24% +27%
Michigan 10,025 11,577 13,182 +15% +31%
Minnesota 4,802 5,072 5,592 +6% +16%
Mississippi 3,165 4,921 4,486 +55% +42%
Missouri 6,710 8,418 7,676 +25% +14%
Montana 1,059 1,163 1,288 +10% +22%
Nebraska 1,772 1,987 2,118 +12% +20%
Nevada 2,791 4,063 3,902 +46% +40%
New Hampshire 1,250 1,537 1,623 +23% +30%
New Jersey 7,802 10,249 11,231 +31% +44%
New Mexico 1,973 2,623 2,469 +33% +25%
New York 10,476 14,858 13,878 +42% +32%
New York City 5,774 7,737 8,709 +34% +51%
North Carolina 9,865 14,507 8,450 +47% -14%
North Dakota 748 754 572 +1% -24%
Ohio 12,690 16,776 17,712 +32% +40%
Oklahoma 4,210 6,098 5,683 +45% +35%
Oregon 3,743 4,301 4,532 +15% +21%
Pennsylvania 14,101 18,727 18,831 +33% +34%
Rhode Island 1,049 1,432 1,321 +37% +26%
South Carolina 5,278 8,012 5,964 +52% +13%
South Dakota 821 992 497 +21% -39%
Tennessee 8,021 11,058 10,545 +38% +31%
Texas 21,441 34,068 23,455 +59% +9%
Utah 1,993 2,482 2,490 +25% +25%
Vermont 534 611 711 +14% +33%
Virginia 7,404 10,188 10,246 +38% +38%
Washington 6,042 6,802 7,406 +13% +23%
West Virginia 2,412 3,218 1,743 +33% -28%
Wisconsin 5,573 6,261 7,332 +12% +32%
Wyoming 518 578 608 +12% +17%
TOTAL 298,247 413,835 374,225
MEDIAN +28% +27%

Pictured: An intubated patient in a negative pressure room in the Covid-19 ICU at Freeman Hospital West in Joplin, Missouri, in August 2021. (Photo: Angus Mordant/Bloomberg)