New COVID Milestone Bears Extra Bad News for Elderly

As US reaches 800K deaths, numbers show that 1 in 100 older Americans have died from virus
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 13, 2021 7:42 AM CST
New COVID Milestone Bears Extra Bad News for Elderly
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/DragonImages)

(Newser) – The New York Times reports that the United States is "on the cusp" of reaching 800,000 COVID deaths. By Reuters' tally, we're already there, with the news group noting that death toll is more than the entire population of North Dakota. Either way, additional stats accompanying that milestone are equally grim, including the numbers on how older Americans have fared during nearly two years of the pandemic. Per the Times, 600,000 people who've died—or three-quarters of that total death toll—were age 65 or older, meaning 1 in 100 older Americans have been felled by the coronavirus. COVID has also now become the third leading cause of death in Americans 65 and older, behind only heart disease and cancer.

This is despite the fact that seniors in the US have received the COVID vaccine at a much higher rate than their younger counterparts, with 87% of those 65 and older now considered fully vaccinated, according to the CDC. The Times notes that these numbers simply amplify "an existing divide" between the young and old in America, with the former group beginning to socialize more and head back to work and school, while many in the latter group still find themselves mired in isolation and loneliness. "After seeing a couple of people we knew die, we weren't going to take any chances at all," a 70-year-old resident of Mill Creek, Wash., tells the paper of how he and his wife have responded to the pandemic. "We really retreated. Everything turned inward for us."

The states with the highest COVID fatality rates are Mississippi, Alabama, New Jersey, Louisiana, and Arizona, per Forbes, with New Jersey being the only state among those five to boast an above-average vaccination rate—69% of its residents have been vaccinated. Reuters notes the number of people who died of COVID in 2021 (450,000) surpassed the number from 2020, even though free vaccines became widely available this year. The news agency cites the more contagious delta variant and the reluctance on the part of some Americans to get vaccinated as the drivers behind this concerning fact. Health experts say most of 2021's deaths were among the unvaccinated. (Read more COVID-19 stories.)

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