COVID third leading cause of death in St. Louis County in 2020


Then-council chairman Sam Page listens to Police Chief John Belmar during a committee meeting in 2018. Now County Executive, Page will renegotiate the lease for The Crossings, formerly Northwest Plaza mall. Photo by Jessica Belle Kramer.

By Lucas Irizarry, Staff Reporter

In light of the 700,000th COVID death in the U.S., County Executive Sam Page announced COVID was the third leading cause of death in the county in 2020. The announcement came hours before the release of the full death report of the county.

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

Of the 11,958 deaths in 2020, 1,310 were caused by COVID which accounted for 11 percent of all deaths. Page said great disparities in race and economic class were shown within COVID-related deaths. African American residents were 2.4 times more 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.”

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 zipcode of birth,” Page said. “For example, a child born in 63134, the area on the eastern edge of Lambert Airport and includes Berkely, 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 report will highlight which underlying conditions caused the most COVID deaths, which Page said were the flu and pneumonia, followed by sepsis, respiratory failure and heart disease. Flu vaccines are available at all three county clinics — Sunset Hills, Berkely and Pine Lawn.