COVID-19 now No. 3 cause of death in US, according to former CDC director

With more 170,000 deaths in the U.S. attributed to the disease, COVID-19 is now the No. 3 cause of death among Americans, former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Thomas Frieden said.

“Covid is now the No. 3 cause of death in the US — ahead of accidents, injuries, lung disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's, and many, many other causes,“ Frieden told CNN on Monday.

According to CDC data from 2017, heart disease was the leading cause of death among Americans (647,457 deaths) followed by cancer (599,108 deaths). Accidents (unintentional injuries) was the third leading cause on the CDC's list, which were attributed to 169,936 American deaths.

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While COVID-19 is not included on that 2017 CDC list, Aug. 18 data from John Hopkins University indicates the number of confirmed COVID-19 deaths is over 170,000 — surpassing the number of deaths caused by accidents. 

However, the true U.S. COVID-19 death toll may already be greater than 200,000, according to a New York Times’ analysis of CDC estimates.

“As the pandemic has moved south and west from its epicenter in New York City, so have the unusual patterns in deaths from all causes,” according to the New York Times. “That suggests that the official death counts may be substantially underestimating the overall effects of the virus, as people die from the virus as well as by other causes linked to the pandemic.”

An ensemble forecast from the CDC updated on Aug. 13 predicts that 4,200 to 10,600 new COVID-19 deaths will be reported by the week ending Sept. 5 and that 180,000 to 200,000 overall deaths will be reported by that same date.

The University of Washington’s Institute for Health and Metrics Evaluation (IMHE) currently projects that there will be 189,703 deaths by Sept. 5 and 295,011 COVID-19 deaths by Dec. 1. 

As for the number of daily deaths, the university currently projects that number will be 987.62 by Sept. 1 and 1,867.11 by Dec. 1. 

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The university's projections also show how easing mandates are associated with more projected COVID-19 daily deaths in the U.S. by Dec. 1, while adoption of universal mask mandates are associated with a lower projected daily death count.

As of Aug. 18, there are more than 775,000 deaths attributed to COVID-19 across the world, according to Johns Hopkins data.