For the second year in a row, COVID-19 emerged in 2021 as the third leading cause of death in Florida, resulting in more fatalities than any other causes except heart diseases and cancers.
The latest provisional cause-of-death data compiled and presented by the Florida Department of Health for deaths recorded through Wednesday, Dec. 29 show far more Floridians likely died in 2021 of the coronavirus than of lung diseases, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, kidney disease, poisonings, overdoses, falls, motor vehicle crashes, homicides, or suicides.
And it appears that COVID-19 didn’t mostly kill already sick people who might have otherwise died of something else in the past year. It added tens of thousands of additional deaths to Florida’s mortality in 2021, just as it did in 2020.
The exact number of 2021 COVID-19 deaths is not yet settled. In the latest cause-of-death reports, the Department of Health holds such deaths in the catchall category of “other and unspecified infectious diseases.” As the year closed, the department’s cause of death data attributed 34,231 Floridians’ deaths to “other and unspecified infectious diseases.” The department initially did the same thing in 2020, but eventually reclassified 19,157 of those deaths as “COVID-19,” leaving just 553 deaths remaining as “other and unspecified infectious diseases.” In each of the previous five years, fewer than 500 deaths were left in that category.
According to the latest state data, there were also another 6,437 Floridians’ deaths in 2021, for which causes of death have not been officially determined.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added 40,717 COVID-19 deaths to Florida’s running total in 2021, after recording 21,673 COVID-19 deaths in the Sunshine State in 2020. Florida was hit particularly hard in the late summer of 2021 when about 20,000 COVID-19 deaths were recorded in two months.
Whatever the final calculation for Florida’s 2021 COVID-19 death toll, the tally will be behind only the 66,839 Floridians’ deaths in 2021 classified into the cardiovascular disease category; and 44,291 deaths caused by all forms of cancer combined.
Florida’s 2021 COVID-19 death toll will undoubtedly be much higher than the 16,946 deaths attributed during the year to lung and other respiratory diseases; or the 7,576 diabetes deaths; 6,408 Alzheimer’s disease deaths; 5,580 poisoning deaths (which include non-suicide drug overdoses); 3,794 fall injury deaths; 3,391 motor vehicle crash deaths; 3,178 renal failure deaths; 3,024 Parkinson’s disease deaths; 3,002 suicide deaths; 2,604 pneumonia deaths; and the 1,320 homicide deaths recorded in Florida during the year, through Dec. 29.
One thing is clear from the Department of Health’s cause-of-deaths data — far more Floridians than normal are dying during the pandemic.
In 2021 there were at least 254,000 deaths tabulated in Florida. In 2020 there were 239,381. According to the Department of Health cause-of-death data, in each of the previous five years, Florida recorded between 191,000 and 207,000 deaths per year.
In the past two years, mortality has been up in nearly every county in the state. In Miami-Dade County, for example, the state recorded about 20,000 deaths per year in each of 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019. Miami-Dade had 25,000 people die in both 2020 and 2021.