COVID-19 Deaths Outpacing Other Causes In Florida

Virus-related deaths appear so far in 2020 to be more frequent than vehicle crashes, suicide, falls and liver and kidney disease -- but that will likely change as daily death totals fall.

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As more people are venturing out into public, some are wondering just how risky it might be.

As with most things COVID-related, it depends.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the risk of catching the novel coronavirus depends in part on what you do, where you go, and with whom you live and work.

Your chances of becoming seriously ill or dying increase with age and certain preexisting medical conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity, asthma and other respiratory problems, the CDC warns.

But the NBC 6 Investigators wanted to know how the risk of death from COVID so far in 2020 compares to other causes of death in Florida.

By taking an average five-month chunk of Florida morbidity data from 2018, we compared the expected number of deaths from various causes to the five-month total for COVID-19, which was 2,364 deaths as of Thursday.

First the bad news: more people have died in Florida from COVID-19 so far this year than likely died through May 2018 from suicide, liver disease, kidney disease, poisoning, falls, suffocation and even vehicle crashes.

"I had not seen that before," said Dr. Olveen Carrasquillo, an epidemiologist who heads internal medicine for the University of Miami Health System. "It's kind of neat. It certainly made the top 10."

No. 7, so far, knocking motor vechile fatalities down from No. 10 to No. 11.

But COVID-19 deaths are declining, so unless there is a surge from a so-called "second wave" that some fear might recur in the fall, COVID-related deaths will fall in the rankings by year end.

The data confirm some are more at risk than others.

"The elderly is taking a disproportionate hit, which is exactly what we’re seeing in the hospital," said Carrasquilo, who NBC 6 asked to review the calculations.

Half of the dead in Florida lived or worked in nursing homes, and 85% were age 65 or over.

But so are 4.4 million other Floridians, almost all of whom are doing just fine.

Based on 2018 population estimates, the chances of a Floridian aged 65 and over dying of COVID are 1-in-2,300; the odds for those under 65, 1-in-50,000.

"The overall proportion of the population that has been affected by this is not that high," Carrasquillo said, while noting the more than 100,000 deaths nationwide "is nothing for people to trivialize. ...That's a pretty sizable and impressive number, no matter how you cut it."

The data also reveal just how African Americans in Florida are over-represented in the state death total.

Based on their respective shares of the population, black people are 3.5 times more likely than whites and 2.75 times more likely than Hispanics to die of the disease, the analysis finds.

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