U.S. Life Expectancy Plunged in 2020, Especially for Black and Hispanic Americans

“I see a lot of fatherless children now, and a lot of wives without their husbands,” she said on Wednesday. Ms. Chandler quit work for most of a year to help her children recover from their loss and, even now, has many days when they barely let her out the door — because they are fearful she will get sick and die, too.

Ms. Chandler points to what she described as substandard care at the hospital in their neighborhood where her husband, Richard, who died at 35, was treated for Covid-19, a facility that serves many patients in Detroit’s African American community.

“If he was white, he wouldn’t have been at that hospital,” she said.

The predominantly Latino, working-class city of Chelsea, just north of Boston, was among the areas of Massachusetts hardest hit by the coronavirus.

Gladys Vega, executive director of a community organization called La Colaborativa, said the death rate from Covid-19 had been exacerbated by lack of access to health care: Many people in Chelsea are undocumented, and they feared that going to a hospital or applying for health insurance could result in deportation.

“That creates all these other dilemmas in their health conditions that make everything worse,” Ms. Vega said. The community lost “elders, young people, people that we never thought would be gone,” she said.

The statistics in the report released on Wednesday laid bare the staggering toll of the pandemic, which has, at times, pushed the health system to its limits.

Measuring life expectancy is not intended to precisely predict actual life spans; rather, it is a measure of a population’s health, revealing either societywide distress or advancement. The sheer magnitude of the drop in 2020 wiped away decades of progress.

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