Pandemic to keep US death rates up, births lagging through 2023: 5 government findings

U.S. mortality rates are expected to be 15 percent higher than pre-pandemic averages and aren't set to return to previous levels until 2023, according to a government report released Aug. 31 by the trustees of the Social Security and Medicare programs.

The projections are from a yearly report signed by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, acting Social Security Administration Commissioner Kilolo Kijakazi and HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra.

Four other key report findings: 

1. As of Sept. 1, more than 640,000 Americans have died from COVID-19. Despite increasing case and death rates, vaccinations should keep total mortality below 3,300 daily deaths — the peak U.S. level seen in January — experts project.

2. Since Feb. 1, 2020, the U.S. has reported 613,000-783,000 more deaths than it typically would, both from COVID-19 and other causes, according to CDC estimates.

3. The U.S. also recorded a steep drop in fertility rates, exacerbating an already existing downward trend. In the last quarter of 2020, there were 53.9 U.S. births per 1,000 women, compared to 57.9 births per 1,000 women in the last quarter of 2019, according to a Brookings Institution analysis cited by The Washington Post. The number of births in the U.S. decreased by 4 percent from 2019 to 2020, marking the sixth consecutive year of decline and the lowest number since 1979, according to CDC data

4. Elevated mortality rates, lower immigration and lower birth rates are affecting the trust funds supporting both Social Security and Medicare programs. The trustees estimate that Social Security will be able to pay scheduled benefits until 2034, one year earlier than the previous year's report assumed, though the pandemic's long-term effects on the U.S. healthcare system remain unclear.


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