The number of deaths is expected to top three million for the first time due primarily to the coronavirus pandemic, making 2020 the deadliest year in U.S. history.

Total data of mortality for the year as a whole will not be available for months, but preliminary numbers suggest that the United States is on track to see more than 3.2 million deaths this year, or at least 400,000 more than in 2019.

COVID-19 has killed more than 318,00 Americans and counting. It has become the third leading cause of death, behind only heart disease and cancer. However, for certain periods this year, COVID-19 was the No. 1 killer.

United States deaths increase most years, so some annual rise in fatalities is expected each year. However, the 2020 numbers show a 15% increase and could be higher after all the deaths from the month are counted in the grand total.

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The increase would declare 2020 the largest single-year percentage leap since 1918, when tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers died in World War I and hundreds of thousands of Americans died in a flu pandemic. Deaths rose 46% in 1918, compared to the year prior.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, the nation’s mortality rate was improving, falling in 2019 due to reductions in heart disease and cancer deaths. Additionally, according to death certificate data released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), life expectancy increased by several weeks for the second straight year.

However, life expectancy for 2020 could end up dropping as much as three full years, according to Robert Anderson of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC counted 2,854,838 U.S. deaths last year, 16,000 more than 2018. This may seem like a big increase, but deaths usually rise about 20,000 to 50,000 each year due to the nation’s aging and growing population. “It was actually a pretty good year for mortality, as things go,” said Anderson.

Deaths from COVID-19 were not the only ones increasing in 2020. An abundance of pneumonia cases early this year may have been COVID-19 deaths that were yet to be recognized due to the cycle of infections. But Anderson said there have been an unexpected number of deaths from certain types of heart circulatory diseases, diabetes and dementia.

With the continuous stay at home order at the beginning of the year, some were optimistic that car crash deaths would drop because people stopped commuting or driving to social events. There is no data confirmed yet, but anecdotal reports suggest there was no decline.

The number of suicide deaths dropped in 2019 compared to 2018, but early information suggests they have not continued to drop this year.

The CDC is still awaiting official mortality numbers in all categories for 2020.

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