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Naming the Lost Memorials honoring COVID-19 pandemic victims in New York City in June. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

U.S. life expectancy fell by a year and a half in 2020 — and the drop was some three years for Black and Hispanic Americans, CDC data published Wednesday shows.

Why it matters: The overall life expectancy decline to 77.3 years is the biggest since World War II to 77.3 years is driven by the COVID-19, per the provisional data from the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). It also underscores the racial disparities of the pandemic.

"The decline in life expectancy between 2019 and 2020 can primarily be attributed to deaths from the pandemic. Covid deaths accounted for nearly 75% of the decline. More than 609,000 Americans have died in the pandemic so far, roughly 375,000 of those lives were lost last year."
— CDC

By the numbers: Life expectancy for Hispanic people fell three years in 2020, from 81.8 years in 2019 to 78.8 years. Hispanic males saw the largest drop of any group — 3.7 years to 75.3.

  • A decline of 2.9 years to 71.8 was recorded among Black people, while life expectancy among white people dropped 1.2 years, from 78.8 years 77.6.

Of note: COVID-19 contributed to 90% of the life expectancy decline for the Hispanic population, 67.9% for the non-Hispanic white population, and 59.3% for the non-Hispanic black population, and 74% overall, according to the CDC.

  • Drug overdose deaths were another significant factor. The CDC reported last week an almost 30% rise in 2020, reaching a record 93,331 deaths — reflecting the proliferation of the synthetic opioid fentanyl in the illegal narcotic supply and the pandemic's toll on the opioid crisis.
  • The report didn't include statistics on Asian Americans or other racial groups.

The big picture: "Life expectancy has been increasing gradually every year for the past several decades," Elizabeth Arias, a CDC researcher who worked on the report, told Reuters.

  • "The decline between 2019 and 2020 was so large that it took us back to the levels we were in 2003. Sort of like we lost a decade."

What they're saying: Anne Case, a professor emeritus of economics and public affairs at Princeton University noted that the data was "not entirely unexpected given what we have already seen about mortality rates" as the pandemic went on, per the Washington Post.

  • "But that still doesn’t stop it from being just horrific, especially for non-Hispanic Blacks and for Hispanics," Case added.

Read the CDC provisional report, via DocumentCloud:

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

Go deeper

Jul 20, 2021 - Health

Study: India's true death toll during pandemic likely higher than 3 million

Indian health workers wearing personal protective equipment are seen closing the body of a Covid-19 victim, who died at home during self-isolation. Photo: Agung Fatma Putra/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The total number of excess deaths in India during the pandemic is likely more than than 3 million and could be as high as 4.9 million, according to a study released Tuesday.

Why it matters: The number is almost 10 times the country's official death toll, making it "arguably India’s worst human tragedy," said the research team, who includes a former chief economic adviser to the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Delta variant now makes up 83% of U.S. COVID cases, CDC director says

Photo: Greg Nash/The Hill/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The more transmissible Delta variant now accounts for 83% of COVID-19 cases in the United States, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Rochelle Walensky said during a Senate hearing Tuesday.

Why it matters: The "dramatic increase," up from 50% on July 3, has led to a rise in virus-related deaths, Walensky told lawmakers.

Updated 19 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios