COVID-19 on Track to Become Third Leading Cause of Death in 2020

COVID-19 on Track to Become Third Leading Cause of Death in 2020

COVID-19 would only trail heart disease and cancer as the third most leading cause of death this year.

In a little more than six months, the coronavirus, or COVID-19, has claimed more lives than accidental drug overdoses, motor vehicle crashes and falls combined during 2018 putting this new virus on track to be the third leading cause of death in 2020, only falling shortly behind heart disease and cancer.

According to the National Safety Council's Injury Facts: "Typically, injury trends change slowly over time. Compared to 2017, in 2018 (latest data available) motor-vehicle deaths decreased two percent and preventable drug overdose deaths decreased four percent, though fall deaths increased three percent. While deaths due to causes like falls and overdoses are spread out fairly evenly throughout the year, the timeline for COVID-19 deaths is compressed, with one-day increase as high as five percent and currently increasing about one percent a day."

According to the latest data, the number of confirmed and probable COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. now exceeds 170,000, eclipsing the total number of preventable deaths in 2018. This would be the first time since 2016 that preventable deaths — which include drug overdoses, motor vehicle crashes and falls — would not be the third leading cause of death in the United States. 

In addition, COVID-19 has played its part in increasing opioid overdose and motor fatality rates as an indirect consequence of the pandemic. The NSC estimates that preventable injury death will likely drop to the fourth leading cause of death in 2020.

"NSC urges the U.S. public to stay vigilant and follow public health guidance around facial coverings, physical distancing and proper hygiene," the NSC said in a press release. "Employers who are reopening traditional work environments must ensure their employees are returning safely. NSC has materials for all types of work environments – including schools – through its SAFER initiative, available at"


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