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CDC says most COVID-19 deaths in US involved underlying health conditions

FILE -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s headquarters in Atlanta on May 29, 2020. (Audra Melton/The New York Times)
FILE -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s headquarters in Atlanta on May 29, 2020. (Audra Melton/The New York Times)AUDRA MELTON/NYT

Some 94 percent of the people who died from COVID-19 in the US between the week ending Feb. 1 and the week ending Aug. 22 had other health conditions that also contributed to their passing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The information was contained in the CDC’s “Weekly Updates by Select Demographic and Geographic Characteristics,” put out by the agency’s National Center for Health Statistics.

According to the most recent update Wednesday, for just 6 percent of all virus deaths during the relevant period, “COVID-19 was the only cause mentioned. For deaths with conditions or causes in addition to COVID-19, on average, there were 2.6 additional conditions or causes per death.”


Conditions contributing to death where COVID-19 was listed on a death certificate included influenza and pneumonia; chronic lower respiratory diseases; adult respiratory distress syndrome; respiratory failure; respiratory arrest; other diseases of the respiratory system; hypertensive diseases; ischemic heart disease; cardiac arrest; cardiac arrhythmia; heart failure; cerebrovascular diseases; other diseases of the circulatory system; sepsis; malignant neoplasms; diabetes; obesity; Alzheimer’s disease; vascular and unspecified dementia; renal failure; and intentional and unintentional injury, poisoning and other adverse events, according to the CDC.

“Data during the period [is] ... incomplete because of the lag in time between when the death occurred and when the death certificate is completed, submitted to NCHS and processed for reporting purposes,” the report said. “This delay can range from 1 week to 8 weeks or more.”

Public health experts have said repeatedly that the elderly and people with underlying health conditions are at heightened risk for adverse health outcomes if they contract the virus.

The disease has killed 182,622 people nationwide, the CDC reported on its website Monday.

Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.