(The Center Square) – The Itasca, Illinois-based National Safety Council is predicting that COVID-19 likely will be the third leading cause of death in 2020, with the majority of those deaths occurring in long-term care facilities.
The death toll nationwide from the pandemic exceeds 170,000, eclipsing the total number of preventable accidental deaths in 2018, the most recent year of final data. Only heart disease and cancer account for more deaths. 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 country.
In addition, the NSC said COVID-19 is having an impact on preventable deaths with increases in opioid overdoses and motor vehicle fatality rates as an indirect consequence of the pandemic.
Ken Kolash, statistics manager with the NSC, said deaths from opioid overdoses have climbed far slower than COVID-19 deaths.
“It has taken 19 years to go from around 11,000 to around 59,000 [opioid] deaths,” Kolash said. “In a span of about 6 months, we have gone from zero to 171,000 COVID deaths.”
According to a Franklin Templeton-Gallup research project, 92 percent of COVID-19 deaths nationwide are people who hare 55 or older. Illinois has seen 7,833 deaths related to COVID-19, with over 6,700 involving people aged 60 or older. Fifty-five percent of the deaths statewide have occurred in long-term care facilities.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike from the Illinois Department of Public Health said Illinoisans may be turning a deaf ear to the rising COVID-19 statistics.
“I am concerned that we have grown numb to these numbers and we need to remember that they are not just numbers, these are people,” said Ezike.
NSC urges people to stay vigilant and follow public health guidance. The agency has made available materials for employers and schools that are reopening traditional environments through its SAFER initiative. The materials are available at www.nsc.org/safer.