COVID third leading cause of county deaths

The+Affton+School+District+held+a+vaccination+event+for+its+teachers+and+other+staff+members+the+first+day+teachers+were+eligible+for+the+COVID-19+vaccine+Monday%2C+March+15.+Other+school+districts+like+Mehlville+and+Lindbergh+have+also+hosted+events+to+vaccinate+their+staff.+

The Affton School District held a vaccination event for its teachers and other staff members the first day teachers were eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine Monday, March 15. Other school districts like Mehlville and Lindbergh have also hosted events to vaccinate their staff.

By Lucas Irizarry, Staff Reporter

After passing the 700,000th COVID death in the United States this month, St. Louis County released its annual death report showing that COVID was the third leading cause of death in the county in 2020. 

The St. Louis County Department of Public Health released a report Oct. 4 showing that the virus accounted for 11 percent of all deaths in the county in 2020. Of the 11,958 deaths last year, 1,310 were caused by COVID. 

COVID rose quickly up the leaderboards after the first reported death in March 2020, meaning it only took nine months to get to third. Heart disease and cancer were still at the top of the list like in 2019, but COVID surpassed accidents, flu, strokes, diabetes and pneumonia.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said great disparities in race and economic class were shown within COVID-related deaths. African American residents were twice as likely to die of COVID than white residents.

“The association between adverse health outcomes and socioeconomic status has been well documented over the years and that association was seen during this pandemic as well with those living in poverty having the highest mortality rates,” Page said. “Today’s report shows how historic health disparities continue to play out here and across the country.”

Overall, most South County zip codes had low COVID death rates — less than 218.3 per 100,000 — besides the 63127 zip code, which had one of the highest in the county between 310.8 and 561.6 per 100,000. The 63127 zip code includes Sunset Hills and Fenton. 

Page said the highest mortality rates were in the north region of the county while the lowest were in the central and south regions. The life expectancy in the country dropped by 1.5 years while the county’s dropped by 2.2 years — Page said African American men and women’s life expectancies dropped by 3.4 and 4 years respectively. 

“Life expectancy depends greatly on the zip code of birth,” Page said. “For example, a child born in 63134 – the area on the eastern edge of Lambert Airport and includes Berkeley – a resident can be expected to live to the age of 66. On the other hand, 10 miles away in the Clayton zip code, 63105, a resident can be expected to live 20 years longer.”

The county average life expectancy sits at 76.7 years, with white residents expected to live 10.3 years longer than Black residents. In South County life expectancies range from 74.7 years in 63125 to 81 years in 63126.

The report also highlighted which underlying conditions caused the most COVID deaths, which Page said were the flu and pneumonia, followed by sepsis, respiratory failure and heart disease.