COVID-19 is 3rd leading cause of death, STAT analysis suggests

Updated death projections suggest COVID-19 is the third leading cause of death in the U.S., behind cancer and heart disease, according to an analysis from STAT.

STAT first compared COVID-19 death projections to past pandemics and leading causes of death in early April to help Americans get a better sense of the numbers. The previous comparison used projections from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which now estimates the death toll will be 72,433 by Aug. 4. IHME previously predicted a death toll of 60,000, which the U.S. surpassed April 29. 

For the updated comparison, STAT used a model created by Youyang Gu, an independent data scientist. The model projects 88,217 to 293,381 deaths by early August.

How this projection stacks up to past pandemics and flu seasons:

1. 1918 flu pandemic: 675,000 deaths
2. COVID-19 pandemic: 88,217 to 293,381 projected deaths
3. 2017-18 flu season: 61,000 deaths
4. 2018-19 flu season: 34,200 deaths
5. 2009 swine flu pandemic: 12,469 deaths

Note: The CDC does not track individual adult flu deaths and instead estimates seasonal death tolls using mathematical modeling.

How this projection stacks up to the nation's leading causes of death:

1. Heart disease: 269,583 deaths
2. Cancer: 252,500 deaths (based on 2019 data)
3. COVID-19 pandemic: 88,217 to 293,381 projected deaths
4. Stroke: 60,833 deaths
5. Alzheimer's disease: 50,417 deaths
6. Drug overdoses: 29,265 deaths
7. Suicide: 19,583 deaths

Note: These figures do not represent annual death counts. COVID-19 models project deaths will fall over the next few weeks, with few occurring past July. To compare death tolls on an equal timeline, STAT calculated death counts for a five-month period for all leading causes of death. All figures are based on 2017 data unless otherwise noted.

More articles on public health:

Most of Georgia's hospitalized COVID-19 patients are black, CDC finds
Coronavirus twice as deadly for men, study finds
CMS loosens more regulations; CDC drafts reopening guidelines + 3 other COVID-19 updates

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