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More than 1 million people, or 1 in every 331 Americans, have died of COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The virus has not been equally fatal for all Americans. Black people, Native Americans and white people hold a higher percentage of COVID-19 deaths than their share of the US population. Americans 65 and older were more than 80% of all deaths from the virus in the first year of the pandemic. And while the Northeast and Midwest were hit hard by COVID-19 in 2020, deaths from the virus were more evenly distributed around the country since then.
At the start of the pandemic, Black people were the hardest-hit racial or ethnic group, accounting for 16% of pandemic deaths in 2020 even though they make up 12% of the population. Native Americans are also a higher percentage of COVID-19 deaths than their share of the overall population.
While white people in the US had lower death rates from COVID-19 in the first year of the pandemic, that’s no longer the case. From 2021 through May 2022, white people had a higher percentage of COVID-19 deaths than their share of the overall population. Making up less than 60% of the US population, white people made up 65% of all COVID-19 deaths.
Black and Native Americans maintained a higher percentage of deaths from the virus throughout the pandemic.
One reason for the racial and ethnic differences may be that older Americans — who tend to be more white than the population overall — make up the majority of COVID-19 deaths. In 2020, more than 80% of COVID-19 deaths were from those 65 or older. Since then, the share of deaths among older Americans fell to 75%.
In 2020, the hardest-hit states were in the Northeast and Midwest. About 10% of COVID-19 deaths occurred in New York, even though the state holds 6% of the US population. The latest data shows that New York accounts for 7% of total deaths.
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