A friend stopped me over the weekend and asked if any newspapers had reported on the total number of deaths in Kentucky for 2020 (not just from COVID-19, but all deaths) and compared that to the last two or three years.
Not that I know of was my response but I’ll see if I can find out any numbers. He was really just wondering if Kentucky would be experiencing another regular year on the number of deaths if not for COVID-19.
My first move was to contact Sid Fogle, executive director of the Kentucky Funeral Directors Association. I figured that organization would have access to the numbers and since the KFDA office is located across the street from KPA, I could walk over for the information if need be.
Sid responded Sunday that he did have the numbers and would get them to me Monday.
I had tried the state office of vital statistics but that site kept wanting to point me to all the graphics and numbers on COVID-19 deaths.
Monday afternoon Sid’s email came through. With the total number of deaths from coronavirus approaching 900 in Kentucky after Thursday’s update, you would expect the total number for the year to be up. But it appears more than COVID will play a role in the total number of deaths for 2020.
In 2018, Kentucky experienced 48,381 deaths.
In 2019, that number increased to 48,842.
And through the first six months of 2020, we’re on pace to surpass 50,000 by the end of December. Sid quotes the Bureau of Vital Statistics, the “official” numbers for Kentucky, at 25,432 through June 30. If that pace keeps up for the last six months of the year, we’ll hit in the neighborhood of 50,900. That would be an increase of 2,100 over 2019. So a good portion of the increase would be attributable to COVID-19 but not the entire increase. Another part of the information Sid supplied reminded me that I’ve seen more and more advertising the last few years for cremation services by funeral directors. And scanning through many obituaries, it’s apparent there are a lot of cremations.
The second set of figures Sid supplied was on “Cremation Rate.” In 2018, it was 33.4 percent or about 16,150. In 2019, of the 48,842 deaths, that rate was 35.1 percent or about 17,150.
It was not planned this way but a few hours after writing this part on Wednesday, Kristen Hare from Reynolds Journalism Institute sent the next article. So this became a segue to using her article.