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Local News

New mortality report for Michigan highlights the toll of COVID-19

Credit: iStock

Anzhe Zhang

According to a newly released National Center for Health Statistics quarterly report on mortality rates across states, Michigan saw a rise in death rates in the third quarter of 2021, as well as a higher average death rate overall, compared to the same time frame in 2020.

It highlights a growing concern for the state and its capacity in preventing COVID-19 deaths, which has become the third leading cause of death in the state behind heart disease and cancer.

Encompassing the entire duration of the pandemic up until the last three months of last year, the data set provides valuable insight as to the toll that COVID-19 is still taking on Michiganders, while highlighting other persisting health problems contributing to an increased death rate for the state compared to 2020.

Compared to the third quarter of 2020, at the height of COVID-19, Michigan saw its overall death rate jump from 1033.3 to 1063.3 deaths per 100,000 people in Q3 2021, according to the CDC. 

Michigan’s 12-month average death rate, from the end of third quarter 2020 to end of third quarter 2021, also jumped from 1102.0 to 1161.4 per 100,000 residents. 

While heart disease and cancer remain the two most deadly contributors to mortality rates within the state, death rates from these two causes have not seen major changes over the past year. For heart disease, state residents saw a minor drop between the third quarters of the past two years, falling from 254.8 in 2020 to 252.0 in 2021. Similarly, the 12-month average death rate for heart disease saw a small drop from a 269.2 rate in 2020 to 262.8 in 2021.

Likewise, the quarterly death rate for cancer in Michigan saw little change, despite a small rise that saw death rates from cancer rise from 211.9 in 2020 to 216.3 in 2021. The average 12-month death rate for cancer also experienced a minor rise from 210.8 in 2020 to 212.3 in 2021. 

It’s important to note that despite death rates remaining mostly static for heart disease and cancer, the two diseases still kill exponentially more people than COVID-19, which trails behind both despite seeing the sharpest rise in death rates.

COVID-19 deaths saw a third quarter jump from 22.9 in 2020 to 50.5 in 2021. Meanwhile, the average 12-month death rate also experienced a significant rise from 59.5 in 2020 to 125.3 in 2021.

This comes at a time when COVID-19 is resurging in Michigan, following the easing of social distancing, lifted mask mandates, and the contagious new BA.2 strain.

Education advocates warn that more work is needed in order to achieve equity across the state, and Governor Whitmer echoed their sentiments upon the new budget’s signing, stating, “Equal funding does not mean we have achieved equity, we have more work to do.”