Older people were always especially vulnerable and now make up a higher proportion of COVID fatalities than ever before in the pandemic. While the total number of COVID deaths has fallen, the burden of mortality is shifting even more to people older than age 64. And deaths in nursing homes are ticking back up, even as COVID remains one of the top causes of death for all ages. COVID deaths among people age 65 and older more than doubled between April and July this year, rising by 125 percent, according to a recent analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation. This trend increased with age: more than a quarter of all COVID fatalities were among those age 85 and older throughout the pandemic, but that share has risen to at least 38 percent since May.
Where people live also affects their risk level. The pandemic first hit urban areas harder, but mortality rose dramatically in rural areas by the summer of 2020—a pattern that has held. The gap is currently narrowing, but people living in rural areas are still dying at significantly higher rates. Rural death rates fell from 92.2 percent higher than urban rates at the end of September to 38.9 percent higher in mid-October.