Health department forecasts COVID-19 as a leading cause of death for Johnson County residents in 2020

The Johnson County health department anticipates COVID-19 will be determined as a leading cause of death in Johnson County in 2020, eclipsing deaths from stroke and respiratory diseases. Photo credit Travis Wise. Under under a Creative Commons license.

The Shawnee Mission Post is making much of its local coverage of the coronavirus pandemic accessible to non-subscribers. (If you value having a news source covering the situation in our community, we hope you’ll consider subscribing here

Johnson County may find that COVID-19 was within the top three causes of death for its residents in 2020.

The Johnson County Department of Health and Environment last week presented a summary of the leading causes of death in Johnson County for 2019 to compare how deaths from COVID-19 would fit into the data.

There were 4,252 deaths in Johnson County in 2019 with cardiovascular disease, cancer and stroke as the three leading causes of fatalities, health officials told the Board of County Commissioners.

How COVID-19 compares with other causes of death

Here’s a look at top fatalities in Johnson County in 2019:

  1. Major cardiovascular diseases: 1,238
  2. Cancer: 881
  3. Stroke: 203
  4. Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 202
  5. Unintentional injuries: 176

But if you add COVID-19 deaths experienced in 2020, that statistic falls into the number 3 slot:

  1. Major cardiovascular diseases: 1,238
  2. Cancer: 881
  3. COVID-19 (from March to December): 484
  4. Stroke: 203
  5. Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 202

The county doesn’t get official causes of death totals from the state for several months after a calendar year has ended and doesn’t expect final data for 2020 until this summer, said Elizabeth Holzschuh, JCDHE director of epidemiology.

But, because COVID-19 related deaths are considered important to public health, they must be reported to the county’s medical examiner’s office, which is why JCDHE has data on COVID-19 deaths for 2020.

“We are only accounting for about really nine or ten months of deaths from this disease but you can see already it ranks as the third leading cause of death,” Holzschuh told commissioners.

Flu, pneumonia deaths in Johnson County

And if you are wondering where flu and pneumonia deaths fall in the list, here’s a look at those numbers from the 2019-2020 season, according to JCDHE:

  • Pneumonia was listed as the direct cause of death for 50 individuals and contributed to 161 deaths.
  • Influenza was listed as the direct cause of death in 15 individuals and contributed to two deaths.

During the 2018-2019 season:

  • Influenza caused nine deaths and contributed to three.
  • Pneumonia caused 58 deaths and contributed to 137.