By Tim Gardner
Life expectancy in the United States dropped by a whopping one year during the first half of 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic caused its first wave of deaths, according to health officials nationwide.
Minorities suffered the biggest impact, with Black Americans losing nearly three years and Hispanics, nearly two years, according to preliminary estimates from the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“This is a huge decline,” said Robert Anderson, who evaluates the numbers for the CDC. “You have to go back to World War II, the 1940s, to find a decline like this. What is really bad about these numbers is that they only reflect the first half of 2020 and they may only get worse,”
CDC officials have proclaimed the life expectancy drop proves the profoundly horrid impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19), not only factoring in deaths directly due to infection, but also from heart disease, cancer, pneumonia and other health problems.
This is the first time the CDC has reported on life expectancy from early, partial records. More death certificates from that period may yet be released. 2020 was the deadliest year in United States history, with deaths topping 3 million for the first time, according to various national health-reported data.
Diane Creek, Director of the Toe River Health District, which governs the North Carolina High Country counties of Avery, Mitchell and Yancey said the drop in life expectancy may, indeed, run a direct correlation with COVID-19 and that doing the proper preventive measures in combating the disease still needs to be a top priority for Americans.
“The main objective needs to be making sure everyone who lives in America has adequate health care. And it needs to be defined as prevention as well as treatment, such as making sure all our citizens are tested vaccinated for COVID-19 and receive the care and treatments they need for any and all ailments they have,” she noted.
Creek then added: “And currently, there are not enough people being tested for coronavirus. That’s something that has to change for us to end it.”
Life expectancy is how long a baby born today can expect to live, on average. In the first half of last year, that was 77.8 years for Americans overall, down one year from 78.8 in 2019. For males it was 75.1 years and for females, 80.5 years.
Hispanics in the United States have had and still have the most longevity. African-Americans currently trail white people by six years in life expectancy, reversing a trend that had been bringing their numbers closer for the past 27 years or since 1993.
Between 2019 and the first half of 2020, life expectancy decreased 2.7 years for Blacks, to 72. It dropped 1.9 years for Hispanics, to 79.9, and 0.8 years for whites, to 78. The preliminary life expectancy report did not analyze trends for Asian or Native Americans.
CDC officials further shared that those who drop in life expectancy are likely those who work in blue-collar, low-wage jobs and live-in environments where it’s easier for the Coronavirus to spread as well as if they have health conditions that raise their risk of dying of COVID-19.
Creek said that following basic recommendations of healthcare professionals is the best way to end a pandemic that has caused more than a half-million America lives.
“Thankfully, health care professionals from doctors, medical scientists, nurses, health department workers and all others involved in the profession in some capacity have learned a high volume about COVID-19, how to combat it and how together all citizens working with us, we’re going to beat it. We just need to practice the basics such as hand-washing, physical distancing and as many people getting tested and vaccinated and as soon as possible to make prevention and ending it as our continuous mission. I can’t stress those things enough,” she concluded.