Fact Check: There Were NOT Fewer Deaths In 2020 With COVID-19 Versus 2019 Without The Virus

Fact Check

  • by: Alexis Tereszcuk
Fact Check: There Were NOT Fewer Deaths In 2020 With COVID-19 Versus 2019 Without The Virus More Deaths

Were there fewer deaths in 2020, despite the COVID-19 pandemic raging, versus 2019 when there wasn't the virus? No, that's not true: A meme went viral with the false claim that the number of deaths in the United States in 2020 was approximately 20,000 less than 2019, implying that the coronavirus pandemic was fake. The Associated Press reported final U.S. Centers for Disease Control numbers for 2020 would show 3.2 million deaths in the U.S. -- 400,000 more deaths than 2019.

The claim appeared as a post (archived here) where it was published by rock 'n roll guitarist Ted Nugent on Facebook on January 1, 2021. It opened:

The one statistic nobody in the Media, Political world or Health/Medical fields can fudge or lie about, is the number of deaths in the United States.

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:

Facebook screenshot

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Tue Jan 5 18:29:24 2021 UTC)

The full text of the meme read:

The one statistic nobody in the Media, Political world or Health/Medical fields can fudge or lie about, is the number of deaths in the United States.
In 2019, there was NO Covid-19: the number of USA deaths: 2,854,838

With 2 weeks left in 2020, and a supposedly catastrophic virus pandemic raging the past 10 months, the number of US deaths stands at 2,835,533

The claim cites statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which show there were 2,854,838 deaths in 2019 in the United States.
Screen Shot 2021-01-05 at 1.37.34 PM.png


The Associated Press published a report titled, "US deaths in 2020 top 3 million, by far most ever counted," on December 22, 2020, that noted the increase in deaths for the year when COVID-19 was prevalent across the country. The article noted that final numbers were not yet available for 2020 but were expected to be significantly higher than 2019.

Screen Shot 2021-01-05 at 1.41.20 PM.png

NEW YORK (AP) -- This is the deadliest year in U.S. history, with deaths expected to top 3 million for the first time -- due mainly to the coronavirus pandemic.

Final mortality data for this year will not be available for months. But preliminary numbers suggest that the United States is on track to see more than 3.2 million deaths this year, or at least 400,000 more than in 2019.
U.S. deaths increase most years, so some annual rise in fatalities is expected. But the 2020 numbers amount to a jump of about 15%, and could go higher once all the deaths from this month are counted.

The efforts by the meme to dismiss the COVID-19 outbreak as false was debunked by Health Feedback in an article titled, "Mortality in the U.S. was more than 280,000 higher during the first eight months of 2020 than any of the previous five years over the same period."

The article noted:

Excess mortality is a measure of how many more deaths have occurred over a period of time as compared to the same period in previous years. During the first 34 weeks of 2020, 280,000 more people died than during the first 34 weeks of any of the five previous years. From March to August 2020, the number of weekly deaths was consistently higher compared to the weekly deaths of any of the previous five years. The 280,000 excess deaths that occurred in 2020 thus far are likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic."

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Lead Stories is working with the CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 fact-checkers who are fighting misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the alliance here.


  Alexis Tereszcuk

Alexis Tereszcuk is a writer and fact checker at Lead Stories and an award-winning journalist who spent over a decade breaking hard news and celebrity scoop with RadarOnline and Us Weekly.

As the Entertainment Editor, she investigated Hollywood stories and conducted interviews with A-list celebrities and reality stars.  

Alexis’ crime reporting earned her spots as a contributor on the Nancy Grace show, CNN, Fox News and Entertainment Tonight, among others.

Read more about or contact Alexis Tereszcuk

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