Per-Capita COVID-19 Deaths on Pace to Exceed Those From Heart Disease

Deaths due to COVID-19 are beginning to accelerate in many US states. In a previous post, I discussed how several states were days, not weeks from a crisis similar to New York’s. The chart above, inspired by John Burn-Murdoch, compares those states with the highest deaths per capita due to COVID-19, based on the number of days since they first registered 0.1 deaths per 100,000 people. The dashed lines depict the cumulative death rate based on the national average for some common causes of death.

New York has been leading the recent news, but the chart makes clear that, adjusted for population, Louisiana is facing a similar rate of fatalities with the same alarming upward trend. With New York’s governor recently stating that he expects the death rate to continue rising for up to three weeks, the potential calamity facing both states is in clear focus.

Of the states with the highest per-capita death rate, only Washington has seen a lower rate than occurred due to pneumonia and influenza combined in 2017–18 — the worst year in the last decade for those diseases.

In four states (NY, LA, NJ and MI), the recent deaths have already eclipsed the expected deaths due to all accidental injuries during that time. All four states show clear evidence of acceleration in their death rate, a trend which if it continues would result in a higher death rate than heart disease — the nation’s top killer according to CDC data.

In addition to spiking death rates, several states are seeing big increases in the rate of hospitalizations related to COVID-19, although reliable data is not yet available for several hard-hit states. I’ll be reviewing testing-related data from New York and other states, as well as trends in hospitalizations among the states in posts coming soon.


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Tom Seufert, MD

Emergency physician, clinical informaticist, software engineer, author, dad.