The number of deaths left in the wake of COVID-19 has been a crushing blow to the U.S. as the nation continues to mitigate its worst excesses. The number of Americans who died during the two years, directly and indirectly, from the virus may be over 1 million.

On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released statistics on the number of excess deaths seen since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. According to the agency, the number of Americans who perished in the last two years reached 1,023,916 as of last week, over 100,000 more deaths than the 911,145 who lost their lives to the virus itself.

An excess death toll is defined as the difference between the observed number of deaths in specific time periods and the expected number of deaths in the same time periods. What this translates to is more Americans dying than anticipated during the period under review by healthcare authorities and monitors.

After the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, other healthcare services were dramatically impacted. Screenings for cancer plummeted, drug and alcohol consumption went up and patients struggled to meet with their doctors because of pandemic-related restrictions. After the first COVID-19 vaccination became available, the situation began to improve, but the arrival of the Delta and Omicron variants each sent hospitalizations up again, diverting further resources away from other health problems.

While still fighting the pandemic, the CDC reported last November that the number of opioid-related deaths reached 100,306, an increase of 28.5% from the 78,056 recorded the year prior. In their statistics on causes of death in 2020, the year COVID arrived, the virus was the third-most-common cause after cancer and heart disease.

Many of these deaths were older Americans, who from the start of the pandemic were shown to be more susceptible to contracting COVID-19.

The CDC estimates that 668,049 Americans over the age of 65 died during the last two years from COVID and other diseases. When broken down by race, white Americans made up the majority of COVID-19 deaths, but non-white Americans of color disproportionately experienced a higher mortality rate relative to their percentage of the population.

Despite the increasing number of states that are doing away with mask mandates or other anti-COVID restrictions in recent weeks, the virus is continuing to push up the daily death tolls across the country. As of Feb. 15, when the CDC last updated its mortality statistics, it said that 2,938 Americans died as a result of COVID-19.

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