Cardiovascular Deaths During the COVID-19 Pandemic in the United States

J Am Coll Cardiol. 2021 Jan 19;77(2):159-169. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2020.10.055.


Background: Although the direct toll of COVID-19 in the United States has been substantial, concerns have also arisen about the indirect effects of the pandemic. Hospitalizations for acute cardiovascular conditions have declined, raising concern that patients may be avoiding hospitals because of fear of contracting severe acute respiratory syndrome- coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2). Other factors, including strain on health care systems, may also have had an indirect toll.

Objectives: This investigation aimed to evaluate whether population-level deaths due to cardiovascular causes increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods: The authors conducted an observational cohort study using data from the National Center for Health Statistics to evaluate the rate of deaths due to cardiovascular causes after the onset of the pandemic in the United States, from March 18, 2020, to June 2, 2020, relative to the period immediately preceding the pandemic (January 1, 2020 to March 17, 2020). Changes in deaths were compared with the same periods in the previous year.

Results: There were 397,042 cardiovascular deaths from January 1, 2020, to June 2, 2020. Deaths caused by ischemic heart disease increased nationally after the onset of the pandemic in 2020, compared with changes over the same period in 2019 (ratio of the relative change in deaths per 100,000 in 2020 vs. 2019: 1.11, 95% confidence interval: 1.04 to 1.18). An increase was also observed for deaths caused by hypertensive disease (1.17, 95% confidence interval: 1.09 to 1.26), but not for heart failure, cerebrovascular disease, or other diseases of the circulatory system. New York City experienced a large relative increase in deaths caused by ischemic heart disease (2.39, 95% confidence interval: 1.39 to 4.09) and hypertensive diseases (2.64, 95% confidence interval: 1.52 to 4.56) during the pandemic. More modest increases in deaths caused by these conditions occurred in the remainder of New York State, New Jersey, Michigan, and Illinois but not in Massachusetts or Louisiana.

Conclusions: There was an increase in deaths caused by ischemic heart disease and hypertensive diseases in some regions of the United States during the initial phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. These findings suggest that the pandemic may have had an indirect toll on patients with cardiovascular disease.

Keywords: COVID-19 pandemic; cardiovascular disease; coronavirus disease 2019; mortality.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / mortality*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Humans
  • Time Factors
  • United States / epidemiology