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An AP report looking into why finds that covid was the biggest culprit, with a surprising number of Americans refusing to get vaccinated. Also contributing to the nation’s 3.465 million deaths in 2022 were more drug overdoses as well as fatalities caused by conditions like cancer, diabetes and liver disease.

AP: COVID-19, Overdoses Pushed US To Highest Death Total Ever

2021 was the deadliest year in US history, and new data and research are offering more insights into how it got that bad. The main reason for the increase in deaths? COVID-19, said Robert Anderson, who oversees the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s work on death statistics. The agency this month quietly updated its provisional death tally. It showed there were 3.465 million deaths last year, or about 80,000 more than 2020′s record-setting total. (Stobbe, 4/12)

Axios: US Saw Highest Death Total Ever In 2021 Largely Due To COVID-19

There were more than 3.465 million deaths in 2021 — about 80,000 more than 2020′s record-setting total, AP reports. There were more than 415,000 deaths from COVID in 2021, up from 351,000 the year prior. The crude death rate for cancer increased modestly, in addition to increases in deaths from diabetes, chronic liver disease and stroke. Between the lines: Deaths from drug overdoses also contributed to the record-breaking death total in 2021, per AP. (Doherty, 4/12)

In related news about covid deaths —

The Boston Globe: UMass Model Was Most Accurate At Predicting COVID-19 Deaths, Study Finds

A University of Massachusetts model that dozens combines of other models to provide short-term forecasts of COVID-19 deaths in the United States performed better than the individual models, according to a new study. The ensemble model, which synthesizes model forecasts collected by researchers at UMass Amherst, “provided a reliable and comparatively accurate means of forecasting deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic that exceeded the performance of all of the models that contributed to it,” researchers said in a study published last week in the PNAS journal. “Synthesizing multiple models removes the risk of overreliance on any single approach for accuracy or stability,” the study said. It said ensemble approaches have previously demonstrated “superior performance” in forecasting flu, Ebola, and dengue fever. (Finucan, 4/12)

AP: A Million Empty Spaces: Chronicling COVID’s Cruel US Toll

On the deadliest day of a horrific week in April 2020, COVID took the lives of 816 people in New York City alone. Lost in the blizzard of pandemic data that’s been swirling ever since is the fact that 43-year-old Fernando Morales was one of them. Two years and nearly 1 million deaths later, his brother, Adam Almonte, fingers the bass guitar Morales left behind and visualizes him playing tunes, a treasured blue bucket hat pulled low over his eyes. Walking through a park overlooking the Hudson River, he recalls long-ago days tossing a baseball with Morales and sharing tuna sandwiches. He replays old messages just to hear Morales’ voice. (Geller, Johnson and Hollingsworth, 4/13)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.

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