Covid-19 deaths have decreased dramatically in the United States — according to Johns Hopkins University data, average daily deaths are less than a tenth of what they were at the peak of the pandemic — but nearly 300 people are still dying from the virus every day in the United States.
Some groups are still at a higher risk than others.
According to a CNN analysis of CDC data, people who died of Covid-19 in May were younger and more disproportionately Black than those who died of Covid-19 throughout the pandemic.
Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Tuesday that Americans who are still dying from Covid-19 are “overwhelmingly” unvaccinated.
“This is exactly what we would expect, given ongoing inequities in vaccine access and a smaller proportion of younger people having been protected by vaccination,” William Hanage, a member of Harvard University’s Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics and associate professor of epidemiology, told CNN.
Experts say deaths are a lagging indicator of disease, occurring weeks or months after the initial Covid-19 diagnosis.
Dr. Judith O’Donnell, hospital epidemiologist and director of infection prevention and control at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, told CNN that “for May, we might be looking at a group of individuals diagnosed in March or April, or in some cases even February,” when the US was still prioritizing older adults and those with certain comorbidities to be vaccinated.
According to CDC data, people 75 and older have accounted for about 57 percent of all Covid-19 deaths in the US, but the balance shifted in May, with 59 percent of deaths occurring among those under the age of 75.
Instead, people between the ages of 50 and 64 have made up a much larger share of recent deaths. This age group accounted for about a quarter of deaths in May, compared to 16 percent of total deaths throughout the pandemic.
Adults under the age of 40 accounted for about 3% of Covid-19 deaths in May, more than doubling their proportion of total deaths since the outbreak began.
According to O’Donnell, who has treated inpatients with Covid-19, there has been a “striking difference” in the people she’s treated in the last few months compared to a year ago, with the average age of hospitalized patients now two decades younger.
But, she explained, it’s not just about age. People of all ages are at risk due to the same comorbidities, such as heart failure, kidney failure, obesity, and a history of smoking, despite the fact that vaccinations are helping.
“We’re very rarely seeing the older population hospitalized and I think it’s because they heard the vaccine message, rolled up their sleeves and, in most cases, got vaccinated early on,” O’Donnell said.
“The 18 to 29 group is really undervaccinated right now, and if it stays that way, we’re going to see them accounting for a greater share of hospitalizations and deaths as time goes on.”