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

Deaths surpass the total number of preventable, accidental deaths.

August 18, 2020

Itasca, IL – The National Safety Council is highly alarmed to see that the mortality numbers for COVID-19 already have surpassed the total annual number of preventable, accidental deaths in 2018, the most recent year of final data – and it is only August. At this pace, COVID-19 likely will be the third leading cause of death in 2020, behind only heart disease and cancer. It would mark 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.

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 (167,127).

Although preliminary, this grim milestone clearly illustrates the scale of the pandemic. In a little more than six months, COVID-19 has claimed more lives than accidental drug overdoses, motor vehicle crashes and falls combined during 2018. In addition, COVID-19 is having an impact on preventable deaths, with increases in opioid overdose and motor vehicle fatality rates as an indirect consequence of the pandemic.

NSC urges the U.S. public to stay vigilant and follow public health guidance around facial coverings, physical distancing and proper hygiene. 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 nsc.org/safer.

We know how to end preventable, accidental deaths like overdoses, motor vehicle crashes and falls. NSC continues to work with experts on effective pandemic countermeasures, because safety will always be at the heart of all prevention efforts. We are committed to collaborating with stakeholders and leaders – both in the private and public sectors – to save lives and prevent injuries, from the workplace to anyplace.

About the National Safety Council
The National Safety Council is America’s leading nonprofit safety advocate – and has been for over 100 years. As a mission-based organization, we work to eliminate the leading causes of preventable death and injury, focusing our efforts on the workplace, roadway and impairment. We create a culture of safety to not only keep people safer at work, but also beyond the workplace so they can live their fullest lives.

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