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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

An estimated 81,000 people died from a drug overdose between June 2019 and May 2020, the highest number ever recorded in a 12-month period, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released on Thursday.

Why it matters: The provisional data suggests the pandemic accelerated overdose deaths.

The big picture: The report aligns with previous data showing overdose deaths spiked during the first three months of 2020. The agency estimates the U.S. will surpass last year's record.

By the numbers: Synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, are the culprit for most of the deaths. Their use increased about 38% compared to 2018-2019 data.

  • 10 western states reported over a 98% increase in synthetic opioid-involved deaths.
  • Overdose deaths involving cocaine also increased by 26.5% nationwide.

What they're saying: “The disruption to daily life due to the COVID-19 pandemic has hit those with substance use disorder hard,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said in a statement.

Go deeper

Jan 20, 2021 - Health

California Rep. Raul Ruiz contracts COVID-19

Photo: Greg Nash-Pool via Getty

Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.) tweeted Tuesday that he has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Why it matters: He is the latest member of Congress to contract the disease since pro-Trump rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, forcing lawmakers to lock down in close quarters. Some lawmakers have criticized colleagues for refusing to wear masks while in lockdown.

Jan 19, 2021 - Health

Fauci: U.S. could achieve herd immunity by fall if vaccine rollout goes to plan

NIAID director Anthony Fauci. Photo: Patrick Semansky-Pool/Getty Images

Infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said on Tuesday that if the coronavirus vaccine rollout by the incoming Biden administration goes as planned, the U.S. could start to see effects of herd immunity and normalcy by early-to-mid fall.

What he's saying: "If we [vaccinate] efficiently in April, May, June, July, August, we should have that degree of protection that could get us back to some form of normality. ... But we've also got to do it on a global scale," he said at a Harvard Business Review virtual event.

Jan 20, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Joe Biden's COVID-19 bubble

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The incoming administration is planning extraordinary steps to protect its most prized commodity, Joe Biden, including requiring daily employee COVID tests and N95 masks at all times, according to new guidance sent to some incoming employees Tuesday.

Why it matters: The president-elect is 78 years old and therefore a high risk for the virus and its worst effects, despite having received the vaccine. While President Trump's team was nonchalant about COVID protocols — leading to several super-spreader episodes — the new rules will apply to all White House aides in "high proximity to principals."