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For first time, deaths surpass births in Ohio

It is easy, in the midst of a generational event such as a pandemic, to be focused on the short term. But numbers reported by the Ohio Department of Health Monday show us the effects of COVID-19 will be with us for generations. Last year, for the first time in state history, Ohio reported more deaths than births. In 2020, 143,661 Ohio residents died, and 129,313 were born. We appear to be on track for a similar year in 2021, with 107,462 deaths so far and 100,781 births.

Records for such things have been kept in Ohio for 112 years. During that time there have been half a dozen wars, two pandemics, a Great Depression as well as other economic downturns, and plenty of other challenges to the population. Yet, according to Ohio History Connection, deaths have NEVER surpassed births — until now.

COVID-19 is estimated to have killed 13,927 Ohioans in 2020 –while the difference between births and deaths that year was 14,348. That means that, yes, there are other factors at work (a predicted pandemic baby boom never happened, so people are also choosing to have fewer children), but the pandemic could have accounted for as much as 97% of the difference.

All over the country the pandemic is taking a similar toll. In 2019, the number of states with more deaths than births was only five. In 2020, it was a record 25 states, according to the University of New Hampshire. It seems likely 2121 will see similar numbers.

Our communities, states and nation will never be the same, once we are on the other side of this plague. A dramatically different population is just one more thing policymakers will have to bear in mind as we plan for moving forward.

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