The rate at which homicide is taking the lives of Americans jumped by 30% over the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic — the largest year-to-year increase ever, new federal government figures show. The rate jumped from 6 homicides per 100,000 people in 2019 to 7.8 per 100,000 in 2020, according to provisional data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). Black men and boys continue to face the highest overall risk of homicide, with at least 2,400 additional Black men and boys killed in 2020 compared with 2019, according to homicide data reported to the FBI.
What the statistics show
The previous largest year-to-year increase was a 20% increase from 2000 to 2001, and that rise was largely driven by the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, when nearly 3,000 people perished.
The statistics released by the FBI also show a large increase in the number of Black women and girls being killed. At least four Black women and girls were murdered per day in the United States in 2020.
The new data does not break down how murders are being committed, but the CDC says that provisional data on firearm injury death rates show an increase in firearm deaths from 11.9 per 100,000 in 2019 to 13.6 per 100,000 in 2020 — a 14% increase.
What role does COVID play?
How much of the uptick in murders can be blamed on the pandemic and its stressors? One psychiatrist believes COVID-19 fears and lockdowns have played a key role.
Although it’s unclear whether the alarming number of homicides among Black women is due to domestic violence, rising community violence or other factors, there are a few factors that may have contributed:
- widespread access to firearms
- barriers to access of preventive services and mental healthcare
These factors in conjunction with the unequal way that coronavirus affected Americans of color played a major role in the way the pandemic