Deaths in Missouri jumped to a record 73,831 in 2020, 18.8% higher than the previous year, according to newly released provisional data from the state health department.
The number is much higher than the total of 8,745 COVID-19 deaths reported by the state, which includes both 2020 and 2021, and experts suggest an accurate tally of coronavirus deaths may not be possible.
Throughout the pandemic, Missouri’s Department of Health and Human Services reported COVID-19 deaths each day, although many deaths likely went uncounted because many cases were not confirmed through testing. Tests were not required to determine whether the coronavirus was a contributing cause when someone died.
Health experts say some additional deaths not caused by the coronavirus may have occurred due to people skipping or avoiding needed health care during the pandemic.
December was the most deadly month in Missouri in 2020, with total deaths for all causes averaging 265 per day and exceeding total deaths in 2019 by 50%.
Missouri’s COVID-19 death rate reached 151 per 100,000 people, below the national average of 175 per 100,000, according to an analysis by The New York Times.
Missouri’s COVID-19 mortality data has also been complicated by delays in reporting. Since the early fall of 2020, the health department has revised reports of coronavirus deaths after discovering additional deaths through reviews of local death certificates. Those reports have added thousands to the cumulative death tolls, often weeks or months after the deaths occurred.
COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death in the United States in 2020, according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.