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2020 on track to be deadliest year in US history

This year is on track to be the deadliest in U.S. history with a total of more than 3 million deaths expected by the end of December, due in large part to the coronavirus pandemic, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that preliminary numbers suggest the U.S. will have at least 3.2 million deaths by the end of 2020, about 400,000 more than in 2019. 

The U.S. has recorded more than 319,000 coronavirus-related deaths as of Tuesday, with more than 18 million total infections, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University

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While the AP noted that deaths normally rise by about 20,000 to 50,000 each year due to aging and a continuously growing population, the 15 percent increase in deaths from 2019 is the largest single-year increase since 1918, when hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers and Americans died from a flu pandemic. 

Data from the CDC revealed that the nation’s mortality rate had fallen in 2019, due largely to reductions in deaths related to heart disease and cancer, and life expectancy had increased by several weeks for the second consecutive year. 

“It was actually a pretty good year for mortality, as things go,” Robert Anderson, who oversees CDC death statistics, told the AP regarding 2019 death statistics. 

However, Anderson added that life expectancy could show a drop by as much as three full years in 2020. 

While COVID-19 has played a major factor in the rise in deaths, deaths from heart and circulatory diseases, diabetes and dementia have also increased this year, according to Anderson.

Additionally, deaths attributed to pneumonia early in the year may have been coronavirus-related and not recorded as such at the start of the pandemic. 

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While suicide deaths saw a drop in 2019 compared to 2018, Anderson said that preliminary data show they did not continue to fall this year. 

Drug overdose deaths also got much worse in 2020, though the AP noted that these had already been on the rise before the coronavirus pandemic hit the country. 

Although year-end data is not yet available, data released by the CDC last week showed that there were more than 81,000 drug overdose deaths in the 12 months ending in May. This is the highest ever recorded in a single year. 

Despite concerns of a continued increase in coronavirus-related deaths as people travel for Christmas and the winter months force people indoors, where the virus is better able to spread, the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of two coronavirus vaccines has signaled a hopeful start in an eventual end to the pandemic. 

Health care workers and lawmakers have already begun receiving the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, and Anthony FauciAnthony FauciNoem touts South Dakota coronavirus response, knocks lockdowns in CPAC speech Sunday shows preview: 2024 hopefuls gather at CPAC; House passes coronavirus relief; vaccine effort continues Underfunding classics and humanities is dangerous MORE, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins were scheduled to receive the Moderna vaccine on camera Tuesday along with several NIH front-line workers. 

Final data has shown both vaccines, which each require two doses administered several weeks apart, to be around 95 percent effective at preventing COVID-19. However, for those over the age of 65, Moderna’s vaccine was found to be 86 percent effective.