For even more families than experts feared early in the pandemic, worst fears have come true. Thousands of Marylanders have a loved one missing from end-of-year celebrations because of a disease that at the beginning of the year didn’t even have a name. As we also document the lives behind the numbers, we contextualize them here with a look at who is dying, where they live and how COVID-19 compares to other killers.
A bigger killer than strokes, accidents or the flu.
As of Dec. 22, 5,353 Marylanders had died of COVID-19. Based on historical data, it would be the state’s third leading cause of death.
The death toll is greater than that of strokes and accidents put together, is twice that of chronic lower respiratory diseases like emphysema and asthma and is more than five times that of flu and pneumonia, which kill about 1,000 Marylanders a year.
MARYLAND’S LEADING CAUSES OF DEATH BEFORE COVID-19
During the worst stretch, two Marylanders were dying every hour.
During the peak in early May, one Marylander was dying of COVID-19 every 28 minutes. The rate for the entire pandemic is one death about every 80 minutes.
Maryland’s victims are overwhelmingly older and disproportionately Black.
With other underlying conditions and aging immune systems likely playing a role, COVID-19 has been most fatal in older adults. Almost nine of out of 10 of Maryland’s victims are 60 or older. The virus’ spread through nursing homes also contributed. Two out of five of the state’s coronavirus deaths are linked to long-term care facilities.
Systemic inequalities that in many cases were exacerbated by the pandemic are believed to have contributed to a higher death rate among Black residents, a pattern seen across the country. While Black residents represent 31% of Maryland’s population they make up at least 37% of its coronavirus fatalities.
Hot spots are spread across the state
Maryland’s hardest hit areas form a cross-section of the state, representing Central Maryland, Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore and urban, suburban and rural areas. Through Dec. 22, Allegany County, where spread of the virus was minimal until cases surged in November, by far had the most COVID-19 deaths after adjusting for population, followed by Garrett, Kent and Prince George’s counties, Baltimore City and Baltimore and Montgomery counties.