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Vital statistics data provide the most complete assessment of annual mortality burden and contribute key measurements of the direct and indirect mortality burden during a public health pandemic. While mortality statistics have historically been produced annually, the COVID-19 pandemic introduced a pressing need for the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) National Vital Statistics System (NVSS) to rapidly release reliable provisional mortality data. Provisional estimates indicate a 17.7% increase in the number of deaths in 2020 (the increase in the age-adjusted rate was 15.9%) compared with 2019, with increases in many leading causes of death.1 The provisional leading cause-of-death rankings for 2020 indicate that COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death in the US behind heart disease and cancer.1
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Corresponding Author: Farida Ahmad, MPH, Division of Health Care Statistics, National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3311 Toledo Rd, Hyattsville, MD 20782 (FBAhmad@cdc.gov).
Published Online: March 31, 2021. doi:10.1001/jama.2021.5469
Conflict of Interest Disclosures: None reported.
Disclaimer: The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Additional Contributions: We are grateful for the efforts of vital statistics jurisdictions in their continued collaboration with the National Center for Health Statistics and provision of data during the COVID-19 pandemic. We thank the staff of the Division of Vital Statistics for coding and reviewing data, providing continuous database maintenance, and producing timely analysis.
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