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National
US life expectancy plummets in 2020

NEW YORK — U.S. life expectancy fell by a year and a half in 2020, the largest one-year decline since World War II, public health officials said Wednesday. The decrease for both Black Americans and Hispanic Americans was even worse: three years.

The drop spelled out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is due mainly to the COVID-19 pandemic, which health officials said is responsible for close to 74% of the overall life expectancy decline. More than 3.3 million Americans died last year, far more than any other year in U.S. history, with COVID-19 accounting for about 11% of those deaths.

Black life expectancy has not fallen so much in one year since the mid-1930s, during the Great Depression. Health officials have not tracked Hispanic life expectancy for nearly as long, but the 2020 decline was the largest recorded one-year drop.

The abrupt fall is “basically catastrophic,” said Mark Hayward, a University of Texas sociology professor who studies changes in U.S. mortality.

Killers other than COVID-19 played a role. Drug overdoses pushed life expectancy down, particularly for whites. And rising homicides were a small but significant reason for the decline for Black Americans, said Elizabeth Arias, the report’s lead author.

Other problems affected Black and Hispanic people, including lack of access to quality health care, more crowded living conditions, and a greater share of the population in lower-paying jobs that required them to keep working when the pandemic was at its worst, experts said.

Life expectancy is an estimate of the average number of years a baby born in a given year might expect to live. It’s an important statistical snapshot of a country’s health that can be influenced both by sustained trends such as obesity as well as more temporary threats like pandemics or war that might not endanger those newborns in their lifetimes.

For decades, U.S. life expectancy was on the upswing. But that trend stalled in 2015, for several years, before hitting 78 years, 10 months in 2019. Last year, the CDC said, it dropped to about 77 years, 4 months.

Other findings in the new CDC report:

  • Hispanic Americans have longer life expectancy than white or Black Americans, but had the largest decline in 2020. The three-year drop was the largest since the CDC started tracking Hispanic life expectancy 15 years ago.
  • Black life expectancy dropped nearly three years, to 71 years, 10 months. It has not been that low since 2000.
  • White life expectancy fell by roughly 14 months to about 77 years, 7 months. That was the lowest the lowest life expectancy for that population since 2002.
  • COVID-19’s role varied by race and ethnicity. The coronavirus was responsible for 90% of the decline in life expectancy among Hispanics, 68% among white people and 59% among Black Americans.
  • Life expectancy fell nearly two years for men, but about one year for women, widening a longstanding gap. The CDC estimated life expectancy of 74 years, 6 months for boys vs. 80 years, 2 months for girls.

More than 80% of last year’s COVID deaths were people 65 and older, CDC data shows. That actually diminished the pandemic’s toll on life expectancy at birth, which is swayed more by deaths of younger adults and children than those among seniors.

That’s why last year’s decline was just half as much as the three-year drop between 1942 and 1943, when young soldiers were dying in World War II. And it was just a fraction of the drop between 1917 and 1918, when World War I and a Spanish flu pandemic devastated younger generations.

Life expectancy bounced back after those drops, and experts believe it will this time, too. But some said it could take years.

Too many people have already died from COVID-19 this year, while variants of the coronavirus are spreading among unvaccinated Americans — many of them younger adults, some experts said.

“We can’t. In 2021, we can’t get back to pre-pandemic” life expectancy, said Noreen Goldman, a Princeton University researcher.


Elias Plagianos answers questions with actress Tara Westwood following a screening on Tuesday evening of the half-hour pilot for a streaming TV series called "Hudson Falls," a show written, directed and produced by Plagianos about a private investigator (actor Richard Kind) in a fictional upstate New York community. The event was held as a fundraiser for the nonprofit Strand Theatre in the real Hudson Falls. For more photos, see a gallery on poststar.com. 


National
Pelosi bars Trump allies from Jan. 6 probe

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday rejected two Republicans tapped by House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy to sit on a committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, a decision the Republican denounced as “an egregious abuse of power.”

McCarthy said the GOP won’t participate in the investigation if Democrats won’t accept the members he appointed.

Pelosi cited the “integrity” of the probe in refusing to accept the appointments of Indiana Rep. Jim Banks, picked by McCarthy to be the top Republican on the panel, or Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan. The two men are outspoken allies of former President Donald Trump, whose supporters laid siege to the Capitol that day and interrupted the certification of President Joe Biden’s win. Both of them voted to overturn the election results in the hours after the siege.

Democrats have said the investigation will go on whether the Republicans participate or not, as Pelosi has already appointed eight of the 13 members — including Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, a Trump critic — and that gives them a bipartisan quorum to proceed, according to committee rules.

Pelosi said she had spoken with McCarthy and told him that she would reject the two names.

“With respect for the integrity of the investigation, with an insistence on the truth and with concern about statements made and actions taken by these members, I must reject the recommendations of Representatives Banks and Jordan to the Select Committee,” Pelosi said in a statement.

The move is emblematic of the raw political tensions in Congress that have only escalated since the insurrection and raises the possibility that the investigation — the only comprehensive probe currently being conducted of the attack — will be done almost entirely by Democrats. Pelosi originally tried to create an independent investigation that would have been evenly split between the parties, but Senate Republicans blocked that approach in a vote last month.

McCarthy immediately issued a statement that said her move will damage the institution of Congress.

“Unless Speaker Pelosi reverses course and seats all five Republican nominees, Republicans will not be party to their sham process and will instead pursue our own investigation of the facts,” McCarthy said.

Shortly afterward, he blasted the Democratic leader in a news conference with all five members. “The only way to reverse this is to seat these five,” McCarthy said.

It is unclear how McCarthy would lead a separate investigation, as the minority does not have the power to set up committees. But he said the panel has lost “all legitimacy” because Pelosi wouldn’t allow the Republicans to name their own members.

Most in the GOP have remained loyal to Trump despite the violent insurrection of his supporters that sent many lawmakers running for their lives. McCarthy wouldn’t say for weeks whether Republicans would even participate in the probe, but he sent the five names to Pelosi on Monday.

Pelosi accepted McCarthy’s three other picks — Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis, North Dakota Rep. Kelly Armstrong and Texas Rep. Troy Nehls. But McCarthy said that all five or none would participate.

Like Jordan and Banks, Nehls voted to overturn Biden’s victory. Armstrong and Davis voted to certify the election.

Banks recently traveled with Trump to the U.S.-Mexico border and visited him at his New Jersey golf course. In a statement after McCarthy tapped him for the panel, he sharply criticized the Democrats who had set it up.

“Make no mistake, Nancy Pelosi created this committee solely to malign conservatives and to justify the Left’s authoritarian agenda,” Banks said.

Democrats whom Pelosi appointed to the committee earlier this month were angry over that statement, according to a senior Democratic aide familiar with the private deliberations and who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss them. They were also concerned over Banks’ two recent visits with Trump, the person said.

Jordan, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, was one of Trump’s most vocal defenders during his two impeachments and last month likened the new investigation to “impeachment three.” Trump was impeached by the House and acquitted by the Senate both times.

The back-and-forth came after all but two Republicans opposed the creation of the select committee in a House vote last month, with most in the GOP arguing that the majority-Democratic panel would conduct a partisan probe. Only Cheney and another frequent Trump critic, Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, voted in favor of the panel.

Cheney told reporters she agrees with Pelosi’s decision to reject Jordan and Banks. “The rhetoric around this from the minority leader and from those two members has been disgraceful,” she said.

Pelosi has the authority to approve or reject members, per committee rules, though she acknowledged her move was unusual. She said “the unprecedented nature of January 6th demands this unprecedented decision.”

The panel will hold its first hearing next week, with at least four rank-and-file police officers who battled rioters that day testifying about their experiences. Dozens of police officers were injured as the crowd pushed past them and broke into the Capitol building.


Local
NY-21
Former U.S. speedskater turned advocate seeks Democratic nod to unseat Stefanik

NORTH RIVER — A former U.S. speedskater turned crime victim advocate is seeking to challenge U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, to represent New York’s 21st Congressional District.

Bridie Farrell, a Democrat originally from Saratoga Springs, announced she would be entering the race Wednesday via a video posted to her Twitter feed touting her North Country roots and criticizing Stefanik as a “far-right” politician more focused on gaining national prominence than serving her constituents.

“I won’t divide people for political gain,” she says in the video. “I’ll never forget the people I’ve been elected to represent.”

Farrell, who currently resides in North River, was a nationally recognized speedskater by 13, competing in four Olympic trials between 1998 and 2014. At one point, she held several U.S. records in the sport.

Provided photo  

Farrell 

She would later turn her attention to advocating for crime victims after revealing she was sexually abused when she was 15 by a 33-year-old speedskating teammate, who she considered a mentor.

Farrell launched a nonprofit, America Loves Kids, to help support abuse survivors. In 2019, she lobbied state lawmakers to pass the Child Victims Act, which extended the statute of limitations on sexual abuse claims.

In a statement, Farrell said she is running to represent the North County in order to ensure the communities that shaped her have the representation they deserve.

“I was taught that everyone’s opinion can be voiced and should be heard. When you do a job, you do it right. We need someone in Washington with North Country values instead of someone who is focused on her own gain at the expense of our communities,” she said.

Farrell joins a growing field of Democratic candidates seeking to unseat Stefanik, now in her fourth term, in next year’s midterm elections.

Matt Putorti, a Whitehall lawyer, announced his candidacy last month. Ezra Watson, of Wilton, has also announced plans to enter the race.

In a statement, Putorti said he was looking forward to running on the issues and earning the Democratic nomination.

“I am excited for a campaign on the issues that matter to the people of upstate New York,” he said. “Growing up in the North Country taught me about service, community, empathy and patriotism. Those are the values I have lived and demonstrated my entire life — and the values I know a majority of the people in this area hold as well.”

But the Stefanik campaign blasted Farrell’s campaign announcement in a statement of its own, calling her a far-left Democrat whose values do not represent the North Country.

Stefanik has recently risen to national prominence, assuming the No. 3 leadership position among House Republicans after Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney was ousted from the position.

Cheney had backed a Democratic-led impeachment inquiry into former President Donald Trump and has criticized efforts to overturn last year’s election results after numerous Republicans, including Stefanik, questioned the validity of the results in some states.

“Far-Left New York City Democrat Brigid “Bridie” Farrell only registered in NY-21 just weeks ago — even more recently than Far-Left NYC lawyer Matt Putorti,” Alex DeGrasse, a senior adviser to Stefanik, said in a statement.

He added: “Our campaign welcomes these radical candidates to the race and to the North Country! Team Elise will continue to make sure voters know there is a clear choice between real results for the North Country and yet another Far-Left New York City Democrat who will rubber-stamp the reckless policies of Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi and Andrew Cuomo.”

This story will be updated. Check back with poststar.com.


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