Our ongoing Color of Coronavirus project monitors how and where COVID-19 mortality is inequitably impacting certain communities—to guide policy and community responses. Last week, the United States’ COVID-19 death toll reached half a million. We have documented the race and ethnicity for 94% of these cumulative deaths in the United States.
Even as vaccine distribution ramps up across the U.S., the virus’ recent toll has been devastating for all groups. Our latest update shows death tolls accelerating in the last four weeks compared to the prior period (mostly January 2021), which had also notched record losses until this update exceeded them.
The last four weeks have yielded the highest number of new deaths since the start of the pandemic for all groups except Black and Pacific Islander Americans, for whom it was the second most deadly stretch. (Black Americans suffered the greatest losses in the month of April 2020—especially in cities where the pandemic first raged—while Pacific Islanders saw their highest death toll in our Feb. 2 update.)
Note that March 3 ends the third deadliest four-week period since the beginning of the pandemic according to data compiled by the COVID Tracking Project. (The first and second deadliest periods were in January and December, respectively.) Thus, it is likely that some of the apparent increase in deaths reflected below come from reclassification of deaths by race and ethnicity. In fact, over the last four weeks the number of deaths with an unknown race or ethnicity has decreased by more than 13,000.In 2021, we switched to the latest population estimates for denominators used to calculate rates and percentages, and began new trend lines for rates dating from Dec. 8, 2020. Indigenous and Black Americans continue to suffer the highest actual rates of loss, followed closely by Pacific Islanders. (The new rates should not be directly compared to our prior data. To examine trends during 2020, we recommend viewing our December update or 2020 year-in-review.) As with prior releases, we have also adjusted these mortality rates for differences in the age distribution of populations (which differ across race groups and states), a common and important tool that health researchers use to compare diseases that affect age groups differently. At the national level, this results in even larger documented mortality disparities—Pacific Islander, Latino, Indigenous and Black Americans all have a COVID-19 death rate of double or more that of White and Asian Americans, who experience the lowest age-adjusted rates.
Our team at APM Research Lab has independently compiled these death statistics, beginning in early April 2020. (Learn more about how.) The result is the most robust and up-to-date portrait of COVID-19 mortality by race available anywhere, with a focus on disproportionate deaths.