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COVID-19 as the Leading Cause of Death in the United States

Educational Objective
To identify the key insights or developments described in this article
1 Credit CME

The current exponential increase in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is reaching a calamitous scale in the United States, potentially overwhelming the health care system and causing substantial loss of life. The news media dutifully report each day’s increase in new cases and deaths, but putting these numbers in perspective may be difficult. The daily US mortality rate for COVID-19 deaths is equivalent to the September 11, 2001, attacks, which claimed 2988 lives,1 occurring every 1.5 days, or 15 Airbus 320 jetliners,2 each carrying 150 passengers, crashing every day.

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Article Information

Published Online: December 17, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.24865

Correction: This article was corrected online December 28, 2020, to change the percentage of excess deaths to 50%.

Corresponding Author: Steven H. Woolf, MD, MPH, Center on Society and Health, Department of Family Medicine and Population Health, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, 830 E Main St, Ste 5035, Richmond, VA 23298 (steven.woolf@vcuhealth.org).

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: None reported.

Funding/Support: Drs Woolf and Chapman received partial funding from grant UL1TR002649 from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.

Role of the Funder/Sponsor: The National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences had no role in preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript; and decision to submit the manuscript for publication.

References
1.
Anderson  RN , Miniño  AM , Fingerhut  LA , Warner  M , Heinen  MA .  Deaths: injuries, 2001.   Natl Vital Stat Rep. 2004;52(21):1-86.Google Scholar
2.
Airbus 320 seat map. United Airlines. Accessed November 27, 2020. https://www.united.com/ual/en/us/fly/travel/inflight/aircraft/airbus-320.html
3.
10 leading causes of death by age group, United States—2016. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed December 8, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/pdf/leading_causes_of_death_by_age_group_2016-508.pdf
4.
About underlying cause of death, 1999-2018. CDC WONDER online database. Accessed November 20, 2020. https://wonder.cdc.gov/ucd-icd10.html
5.
Provisional COVID-19 death counts by sex, age, and week. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated December 9, 2020. Accessed December 9, 2020. https://data.cdc.gov/NCHS/Provisional-COVID-19-Death-Counts-by-Sex-Age-and-W/vsak-wrfu
6.
CDC COVID data tracker: trends in number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the US reported to CDC, by state/territory. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed December 13, 2020. https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#trends_dailytrendscases
7.
Woolf  SH , Chapman  DA , Sabo  RT , Weinberger  DM , Hill  L , Taylor  DDH .  Excess deaths from COVID-19 and other causes, March-July 2020.   JAMA. 2020;324(15):1562-1564. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.19545 PubMedGoogle Scholar
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