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COVID Passes Heart Disease as Top U.S. Killer

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December 7, 2020 -- COVID-19 passed heart disease as the leading cause of death during the past week, according to the latest report from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

More than 11,800 COVID-19 deaths were reported, passing heart disease at 10,700 deaths, lung and tracheal cancer at nearly 4,000 deaths, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at more than 3,700 deaths, and stroke at more than 3,600 deaths. The daily death rate is greater than 4 per million in 34 states, according to the report.

More than 281,000 people have died from COVID-19 as of Sunday morning, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The total could reach more than 500,000 by April, the IHME model forecasts, which could peak at around 3,000 deaths per day in mid-January.

“By April 1, 2021, we project that 9,000 lives will be saved by the projected vaccine rollout,” according to the report. “If rapid rollout of vaccine is achieved, a further 11,000 lives will be saved.”

Until then, nearly every state will see an overwhelming increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations, and 46 will face “high or extreme stress” with hospital beds and ICU capacity between December and February, IHME said.

“It’s one giant ball of anxiety trying to figure out where the next patient’s going to go,” Donovan Boetcher, a respiratory therapist in Wisconsin, told CBS News.

“I feel like on social media, there’s a lot of talk of health care heroes and all that,” Boetcher said. “Well, if you really want to respect people in health care or anyone that has to work right now, stay home. Wear a mask.”

The U.S. also hit a record seven-day average in COVID-19 cases, logging more than 1 million new cases during the first five days of December to reach 14.5 million, according to CNN. The U.S. reported nearly 228,000 cases on Friday, which marked the highest one-day total during the pandemic, and averaged about 183,000 new cases per day, breaking yet another record during the past week.

“Every single day, thousands more people are getting this virus, and we know that means that in a few days, in a week, hundreds of people are going to be coming to the hospital and hundreds of people are going to die,” Shirlee Xie, MD, the associate director of hospital medicine for Hennepin Healthcare in Minneapolis, told CNN.

“I think that sometimes when you hear statistics like that, you become numb to what those numbers mean,” Xie said. “But for us, the people that are taking care of these patients, every single number is somebody that we have to look at and say, ‘I’m sorry, there’s nothing more I can do for you.'”

WebMD Health News Brief

Sources

Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, “COVID-19 Results Briefing: the United States of America, December 4, 2020.”

Johns Hopkins University, “COVID-19 Dashboard.”

CBS News, “COVID-19 becomes top killer in U.S. as hospitals fill up: ‘It's one giant ball of anxiety.’”

CNN, “The US hit a record 7-day average of new Covid-19 cases as hospitals are further strained.”

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