NEW JERSEY — New Jersey’s overall death toll in 2020 is on track to be 27 percent higher than in each of the previous two years, according to provisional statistics from the state’s Department of Health. Some counties had stark increases as the COVID-19 crisis impacted all areas of New Jersey.
New Jersey may still make final adjustments, the state Department of Health has noted, but as of Jan. 7, the death toll for all of 2020 in the state was 94,839. In previous years, the final tolls were 74,547 for 2019, and 75,798 for 2018.
The state did not include three individuals whose county of residence was unknown at the end of the year, which eventually may change the total.
The 2019 statistics will be “closed out” in March 2021, and will not change much, the state noted on the charts for that year (below).
Month to month and year to year
Comparing New Jersey’s death toll month to month should be done with an understanding of situations constantly in flux; for instance, after the virus spread in March, the state issued stay-at-home orders from March 21 to June 9, 2020, which would have an effect on communicable disease spread and factors such as road accidents.
Yet, it is useful to compare the annual fatality numbers.
Final tolls for 2020 and 2019 can also be compared for each county. The most densely populated counties had the highest percentage increases from one year to another, with Hudson County —among the six most densely populated counties in the country, and with many residents who commute to Manhattan — experiencing a 54 percent jump in its death totals from 2019 to 2020.
As shown in the 2020 chart, tolls in New Jersey spiked in April and May, after people had been exposed to coronavirus but before rapid testing and protective equipment were widely available, and while hospitals were overcrowded and symptomatic people were sometimes told to stay home if they could. By summer, the numbers began to decline.
In April 2020, 17,895 people died of all causes in New Jersey, approximately three times the state’s death rate for that month in 2018 or 2019.
The state has said that at least 8,495 of those people died of coronavirus-related causes, although categorization criteria is evolving and may differ by agency.
Because many people passed away in spring without first having the chance to be tested, including in nursing homes and at home, the state began adjusting those numbers in May (read more: NJ Now Reporting ‘Probable’ Coronavirus Death Toll)
People interested in trends in other causes of death can look at this separate database of causes of death for each month, including in the two months before the pandemic hit.
In most years, the top causes of death in New Jersey are not due to a contagious disease, according to this CDC chart:
In May, Gov. Phil Murphy said his administration was going through a “rigorous process” to make sure the numbers are “as accurate as possible, including presumptive cases that we’re going to be constantly looking back and reassessing.” At the time, Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said there will be people who died who “had symptoms of COVID-19 but for whatever reasons they were not tested.”
“Maybe they expired at home (or) maybe they were in the hospital and the tests had not been performed yet because of the lag,” she added.
At that point in the pandemic, death tolls were spiking in almost every county in New Jersey. According to Patch’s statistics from April 2020, compared with April 2019, the increases in overall fatalities were as follows.
County death toll comparison, April 2019 to April 2020:
The numbers began to stabilize come summer.
For all of 2020, the percent increases for each county over 2019 were:
Two people who passed away in December and one in June were not included because of their “unknown county of residence,” the state said at the bottom of the 2020 table.
When coronavirus deaths hit their peak, and declined
On the worst day for the pandemic in New Jersey, there were 460 coronavirus-related deaths announced statewide in a 24-hour period on April 30, or one person every 3 minutes.
New Jersey’s first “presumptive positive” coronavirus case had been reported on March 4, a 32-year-old man who was hospitalized in Bergen County. The first death was reported on March 10, an older man in Bergen County who was then linked to a group of cases that ultimately took the lives of five members of one Monmouth County family.
The daily death toll began to decline after April, reaching its nadir in early September, when only two coronavirus deaths were reported in one day. Deaths then began to rise again in fall.
Nationwide, as of New Year’s Eve, 2020, approximately 340,000 Americans had been reported as having died from coronavirus-related causes. By Jan. 15, 2021, the number had spiked by another 48,000 to exceed 388,000.
No matter what the cause, each person was obviously more than a number — leaving children, siblings, parents in mourning. Patch has started a Covid Memorial in which people have mourned their loved ones who passed away over the past year.
“Despite all her hardships, at the age of 65, she finally started to enjoy life,” said Gloria Scarpati of Morganville, N.J. about her mom, Margaret Stella, whose story she submitted.
The state also lost dozens of doctors, police, and other emergency workers, particularly in spring, before they had proper protective equipment.
Breakdowns by category
The state released a more complete breakdown in August. For that breakdown by town, see this earlier report in September from NJ.com.
To see which states are seeing the largest increases in cases and deaths right now, click on this CDC map.
Find out when you will be eligible to register for and get the COVID-19 vaccine in New Jersey: NJ Expands COVID Vaccine To 65 & Older, Those With Medical Issues
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