At nearly 12K deaths, COVID to be No. 3 cause of death in Michigan in 2020

The first death from the coronavirus in Michigan was March 16. In the nine months that followed, nearly 12,000 more would die. (Shutterstock)

By month’s end, the death toll from COVID-19 will approach 12,000 in Michigan, making it the No. 3 cause of death this year behind heart disease and cancer.


It’s a staggering number, especially since the coronavirus wasn’t attributed to any deaths in the state before March 16.

The novel coronavirus moved into the state, experts now believe, in February and by March, thousands were sickened.

Then the dying started: 513 in March, then 3,745 in April — including an average of nearly 150 a day for seven awful days from April 7 to 14. At the time, the devastation was rooted in Detroit and its suburbs.

With nine days left in the year, COVID had killed 11,705 through Tuesday, dwarfing the typical toll of pneumonia and the flu, which kill just less than 2,000 a year. 

The deaths from the pandemic this year were almost as much as strokes (5,180), Alzheimer’s disease (4,474) and diabetes (2,824) combined.


To get a better sense of the devastation of COVID-19, consider this: In many weeks in the spring and again in the fall, deaths from the virus eclipsed the weekly average deaths of heart disease and cancer.

While statistics from this year aren’t yet available on those conditions, heart disease historically kills 500 people per week in Michigan, while cancer kills another 400 per week.

Four times this year, COVID-19 deaths exceeded 800 in a week and twice, in April, they surpassed 1,000.


Early in the pandemic, as the disease was rampaging through metro Detroit and other bigger cities, African Americans were disproportionately affected. 

At one point, African Americans, who constitute 14 percent of the state population, accounted for nearly 40 percent of all COVID-19 deaths in Michigan.

But since then, many communities with large numbers of people of color have taken more precautions and the disease has spread across the state. 

By the year’s end, African Americans accounted for 25 percent of all deaths. White residents, comprising 74.7 percent of the population, now make up 64 percent of COVID-19 deaths.


But what was true early in the pandemic is still true: COVID-19 is far more lethal to elderly residents.

  • People over 80 comrpise 5 percent of cases but 46.1 percent of all deaths. (in 2018, they comprised 43 percent of all deaths in Michigan)
  • Those in the 70s have 7.1 percent of cases but comprise 27 percent of deaths (in 2018 they comprised 21 percent of all deaths).

And younger residents are far less likely to die of the virus: Those under 50 make up 3 percent of deaths from COVID-19, even though they comprise about 18 percent of deaths from all other causes in typical years.


Southeast Michigan was by far the worst-hit region statewide, and early in the pandemic, Detroit was one the nation’s hotspots for coronavirus infections .

By year’s end, the six counties that comprise southeast Michigan (Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, St. Clair, Monroe and Washtenaw) had suffered the worst: Nearly 6,700 deaths, or 146 for every 100,000 people in the 4.5 million person region, or 28 percent higher than the statewide rate of 114 deaths per 1 million people.

But as the virus spread, it spread its pain too, with the region of east Michigan from the Thumb around Saginaw Bay and along the Lake Huron coast was second, with 131 deaths per 100,000. 

And the Upper Peninsula, struck in October and November after months of relative calm, is third, with 102 deaths per 100,000.


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Wed, 12/23/2020 - 8:30am

Biden is RIGHT. It will be far WORSE, before it gets better. Every week with Trump asleep at the wheel exacerbates the problem EXPONENTIALLY.

Wed, 12/23/2020 - 7:05pm

So first of all Biden or Trump have zero control over this. Second, the statistics shown in the article indicates NO ONE has control over this. So please understand before you make such statements. Trump does get credit for pushing for a vaccine as quickly as possible. So please give credit where credit is due.

Mon, 12/28/2020 - 12:09pm

What's sad is how programmed beyond repair you are.

Wed, 12/23/2020 - 8:51am

The additional deaths because of Covid is terrible. However, I would hope an investigative journalist would ask why the CDC has broader definition of covid death vs the world and report on that information? We've all heard of the stories of deaths being counted as an covid deaths when someone was in an auto accident, cardiac arrest, cancer.

Wed, 12/23/2020 - 6:50pm

There are just lies from the trump sheeps<<< they still believe it all a hoax as they die form the virus!!!
Good thing is most of the death are of people who went to one of his supper spreader rallies!!!

Wed, 12/23/2020 - 1:35pm

Come on Mike. You know this is false information. The COVID deaths that are being tracked are deaths WITH COVID not deaths FROM COVID. The braintrust of the "so called" experts have no clue as to what the actual death rate is because of the "financial incentive" given to the states and healthcare industry to maximize the number of COVID deaths. This specifically why everyone changed the metric early on. So please be factual in what you put out.

Sun, 12/27/2020 - 11:08am

Anonymous - you are absolutely right

Wed, 12/23/2020 - 6:47pm

And we can thank trump for all his supper spreader hate rallies he held in Michigan!!!!!!

Sat, 12/26/2020 - 1:00pm

What anyone with any sense would be looking for/at is the number of Excess Deaths in Michigan in 2020 compared to 2019 and 2018. Unless someone can come up with scientific evidence to prove a cause of any precipitous drop in reported deaths from heart disease, cancer, COPD, stroke, & diabetes, etc. , it is reasonable to conclude that a like number of people died from these causes in 2020 while they might, or might not, have also been infected with Covid-19.
Think about all those death certificates being changed after the fact; a DOCTOR who had feet on the ground determined the cause of death at or about the time of death, but the STATE knows better from afar based on a blood test with les than a 100% rate of accuracy?
For all those so interested in having government officials "protect" them from Covid-19, please start making your list of what you'll give up to have the masses protected from the illnesses that kill the most people every year, year in and out; heart and lung diseases. Bacon? Gone. Steaks? Gone. Smoking? Gone. Sitting on your butt watching TV instead of exercising? Gone, along with the freedom to make your own bad decisions that comes along with being an adult.

Sun, 12/27/2020 - 11:06am

I agree with CM & anonymous -
Dr. Brix affirmed all deaths if the virus is part of someone's illness, their cause of death is recorded as covid. It's also a $$ maker with hospitals getting $13k for virus patients & $39k for each put on a ventilator. Many reports of people never being tested & receiving a report of testing positive. The virus is real yet the numbers are intentionally skewed. Opinion - to bring the US populus under control & compliant. It has been a nefarious plan.

Mon, 12/28/2020 - 11:39am

I know I do not exist anymore (logic) but . . . . Anyone saying Trump has anything to do with Covid is borderline mentally ill, but at minimum programmed beyond repair. Secondly, we have no idea if these numbers are even close to accurate. It's possible not one person actually died from Covid but thousands died with Covid. But hey, it fits the narrative so keep selling Covid fear Bridge.