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Obituary Trends During the 2020–2021 COVID-19 Pandemic in Various U.S. Cities

by Linnea Crowther

This page will be updated regularly. Last update: June 9, 2021.

U.S. death rate trends are typically easy to predict. The highest death rate occurs in January, dropping as spring begins and reaching its low in the summer months before rising again toward the end of the year. This trend forms a predictable U-shaped graph each year reflecting U.S. deaths.

The death rate in 2020 and early 2021 did not follow this predictable pattern. Instead, deaths from all causes spiked in spring 2020 and continued to fluctuate in unusual patterns afterward.

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Legacy.com publishing data reflects this deviation from the typical death rate in 2020 and into 2021, showing that, in some areas of the U.S., the number of obituary notices published in local newspapers beginning in April 2020 was substantially higher than the number published in the same time period in the previous year.

The following graphs track obituary notice publication volume from January 2019 through February 2021. These numbers count all family-placed obituary notices, both paid and free, published through Legacy’s newspaper partners. (Approximately 85 percent of U.S. newspapers post their local notices on Legacy.)

Notes on the data:

1. In most of these graphs, 2020 obituary rates in January and February, before the pandemic began affecting the U.S., are consistently lower than during the same months in 2019. This represents a known preexisting decrease in the average number of obituaries being submitted for newspaper print publication annually.

2. In March 2020, obituary volume declined substantially in many areas, simultaneous with the stay-at-home orders issued in states all across the nation. This reflected the fact that many families canceled or postponed funeral services due to social distancing restrictions, and for some families, obituary publication occurs as a part of their formal funeral planning process. (Many more families, however, still published obituaries in the absence of a funeral.)

We first observed the unusual obituary statistics in late April 2020 — most notably, in and around New York City.

In 2019, the number of obituaries published in New York City followed a typical seasonal decrease as the weather warmed up in March, April, and May. This corresponds to the nationwide trend that sees more deaths during winter months and fewer deaths during summer months. But this year was very different. April 2020 abruptly showed an 85% increase year over year in the number of obituaries published.

Obituary notices published in New York City newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 85% in April 2020, 44% in May 2020, 10% in January 2021, 4% in February 2021, 12% in March 2021

For further comparison, here are the numbers of obituaries published in New York City newspapers over a broader time span, January through December for each year beginning in 2016:

Cities on commuter lines from New York City, such as Newark, N.J. and Stamford, Conn., saw similar increases in April:

Obituary notices published in Newark, N.J. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 82% in April 2020, 44% in May 2020

Obituary notices published in Stamford, Conn. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 71% in April 2020, 23% in May 2020, 6% in August 2020, 18% in November 2020, 6% in December 2020, 23% in January 2021


More reporting: Obituaries reflect the story of the pandemic


The following graphs show obituary spikes in cities across several notable states throughout the year:

There were occasional rises in obituary publication rates in some California cities earlier in the year, but several showed a marked increase beginning in December.

Obituary notices published in Bakersfield, Cal. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 11% in August 2020, 6% in September 2020, 26% in December 2020, 39% in January 2021, 62% in February 2021, 51% in March 2021, 92% in April 2021, 15% in May 2021

Obituary notices published in Fresno, Cal. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 9% in September 2020, 26% in December 2020, 27% in January 2021, 32% in March 2021, 24% in April 2021, 15% in May 2021

Obituary notices published in Los Angeles, Cal. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 11% in April 2020, 6% in September 2020, 10% in October 2020, 2% in December 2020, 52% in January 2021, 32% in February 2021, 23% in March 2021, 7% in May 2021

Obituary notices published in Marysville, Cal. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 26% in April 2020, 1% in July 2020, 82% in December 2020, 35% in January 2021, 12% in March 2021, 26% in May 2021

Obituary notices published in San Francisco, Cal. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 10% in August 2020, 23% in January 2021, 14% in February 2021, 16% in March 2021, 6% in May 2021

Obituary notices published in Stockton, Cal. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 57% in August 2020, 7% in October 2020, 16% in November 2020, 49% in December 2020, 76% in January 2021, 70% in February 2021, 73% in March 2021, 113% in April 2021, 85% in May 2021

Obituary notices published in Visalia, Cal. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 25% in July 2020, 19% in September 2020, 54% in December 2020, 42% in January 2021, 5% in February and March 2021, 30% in April 2021, 2% in May 2021

Obituary publication rates in several Florida cities spiked at various times from spring through winter.

Obituary notices published in Crystal River, Fla. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 7% in June 2020, 28% in July 2020, 13% in August 2020, 55% in September 2020, 11% in October 2020, 16% in November 2020, 7% in December 2020, 20% in January 2021, 40% in February 2021, 7% in April 2021, 8% in May 2021

Obituary notices published in Daytona Beach, Fla. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 17% in January 2021, 9% in February 2021, 28% in March 2021, 34% in April 2021, 16% in May 2021

Obituary notices published in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 26% in June 2020, 27% in August 2020, 23% in November 2020, 30% in December 2020, 43% in January 2021, 47% in February and March 2021, 127% in April 2021, 95% in May 2021

Obituary notices published in Lake City, Fla. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 5% in June 2020, 97% in August 2020, 14% in October 2020, 26% in December 2020, 31% in January 2021, 25% in February 2021, 5% in March 2021, 34% in April 2021, 31% in May 2021

Obituary notices published in Ocala, Fla. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 31% in August 2020, 26% in September 2020, 32% in January 2021, 4% in February 2021, 38% in March 2021, 32% in April 2021, 22% in May 2021

Obituary notices published in Panama City, Fla. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 4% in July 2020, 27% in August 2020, 33% in October 2020, 12% in December 2020, 23% in January 2021, 12% in February 2021, 44% in March 2021, 37% in April 2021, 41% in May 2021

Obituary notices published in Pensacola, Fla. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 13% in June 2020, 31% in July 2020, 45% in August 2020, 14% in September 2020, 20% in November 2020, 28% in December 2020, 38% in January 2021, 25% in February 2021, 23% in March 2021, 5% in April 2021

Obituary notices published in Stuart, Fla. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 16% in July 2020, 26% in August 2020, 21% in September 2020, 12% in January 2021, 33% in February 2021, 7% in March 2021

Obituary notices published in Tallahassee, Fla. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 11% in April 2020, 5% in May 2020, 40% in June 2020, 31% in July and August 2020, 56% in September 2020, 16% in December 2020, 21% in January 2021, 16% in February 2021, 18% in March 2021, 7% in April 2021, 11% in May 2021

An early jump in New Orleans’s obituary numbers was evident in April. In Alexandria, obituary numbers began to rise in the summer before tapering off a bit in fall, while various cities saw increases in the winter months.

Obituary notices published in Alexandria, La. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 21% in May 2020, 41% in June 2020, 50% in July 2020, 37% in August 2020, 30% in September 2020, 23% in October 2020, 30% in November 2020, 55% in December 2020, 38% in January 2021, 28% in February 2021, 22% in March 2021, 7% in April 2021

Obituary notices published in Baton Rouge, La. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 24% in April 2020, 37% in May 2020, 12% in June 2020, 10% in July 2020, 27% in August and September 2020, 10% in November 2020, 14% in December 2020, 37% in January 2021, 18% in February 2021, 13% in March 2021

Obituary notices published in Lafayette, La. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 4% in July 2020, 25% in August 2020, 36% in September 2020, 5% in October 2020, 2% in November 2020, 26% in December 2020, 30% in January 2021, 24% in February 2021, 26% in March 2021, 8% in April 2021, 11% in May 2021

Obituary notices published in Monroe, La. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 4% in June 2020, 35% in July 2020, 15% in August 2020, 9% in September 2020, 4% in October 2020, 5% in November 2020, 37% in December 2020, 32% in January 2021, 2% in February 2021, 21% in March 2021, 15% in April 2021

Obituary notices published in New Orleans, La. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 48% in April 2020, 12% in July 2020, 15% in August 2020, 20% in January 2021, 11% in February 2021, 6% in March 2021

(Note: Last year’s June 2019 spike coincides with when New Orleans’s two major newspapers were in the process of merging into a single operation, and thus does not necessarily correspond to an actual increase in deaths.)

In several New Mexico cities, obituary numbers fluctuated beginning in late spring 2020, with several large spikes.

Obituary notices published in Alamagordo, N.M. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 15% in May 2020, 23% in July 2020, 10% in September 2020, 39% in October 2020, 50% in December 2020, 48% in April 2021

Obituary notices published in Albuquerque, N.M. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 5% in August 2020, 21% in December 2020, 4% in February 2021, 11% in March 2021, 48% in April 2021, 14% in May 2021

Obituary notices published in Clovis, N.M. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 43% in August 2020, 95% in September 2020, 140% in October 2020, 27% in November 2020, 194% in December 2020, 34% in January 2021, 50% in March 2021, 137% in April 2021

Obituary notices published in Las Cruces, N.M. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 15% in May 2020, 14% in June 2020, 10% in July 2020, 41% in August 2020, 53% in September 2020, 22% in October 2020, 236% in November 2020, 118% in December 2020, 86% in January 2021, 24% in February 2021, 78% in March 2021, 70% in April 2021, 18% in May 2021

Obituary notices published in Santa Fe, N.M. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 27% in May 2020, 9% in June 2020, 15% in August 2020, 3% in September 2020, 16% in November 2020, 18% in December 2020, 6% in March 2021, 52% in April 2021, 3% in May 2021

Outside of the New York City metro area, New York state as a whole didn’t see alarming spikes in obituary numbers in spring. However, later in 2020 and into 2021, numbers began to increase in several newspaper markets.

Obituary notices published in Albany, N.Y. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 11% in May 2020, 4% in August 2020, 5% in September 2020, 11% in November 2020, 10% in December 2020, 26% in January 2021, 11% in February 2021, 12% in March 2021

Obituary notices published in Binghamton, N.Y. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 4% in April 2020, 17% in May 2020, 24% in July 2020, 3% in August 2020, 26% in September 2020, 8% in October 2020, 42% in November 2020, 18% in December 2020, 37% in January 2021, 22% in February 2021

Obituary notices published in Corning, N.Y. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 31% in November 2020, 82% in December 2020 and January 2021, 38% in February 2021, 47% in March 2021, 66% in April 2021, 20% in May 2021

Obituary notices published in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 21% in April 2020, 14% in October 2020, 2% in December 2020, 73% in January 2021, 21% in February 2021, 23% in March 2021

Obituary notices published in Rochester, N.Y. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 4% in April 2020, 22% in December 2020, 41% in January 2021, 22% in February 2021, 8% in March 2021

Obituary notices published in Utica, N.Y. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 4% in April 2020, 5% in May 2020, 23% in June 2020, 12% in July 2020, 3% in September 2020, 48% in December 2020, 70% in January 2021, 15% in February 2021, 3% in April 2021, 41% in May 2021

Obituary rates fluctuated in some areas of North Carolina throughout 2020 before jumping in winter.

Obituary notices published in Burlington, N.C. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 33% in July 2020, 2% in September 2020, 44% in October 2020, 16% in November 2020, 18% in December 2020, 37% in January 2021, 6% in February 2021, 75% in March 2021, 16% in April 2021

Obituary notices published in Kinston, N.C. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 5% in April 2020, 6% in May 2020, 8% in June 2020, 5% in July 2020, 3% in August 2020, 46% in September 2020, 6% in October 2020, 14% in November 2020, 57% in December 2020, 44% in January 2021, 20% in April and May 2021

Obituary notices published in Salisbury, N.C. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 7% in April 2020, 34% in August 2020, 72% in September 2020, 19% in October 2020, 12% in November 2020, 49% in December 2020, 58% in January 2021, 6% in May 2021

Obituary notices published in Wilmington, N.C. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 1% in August 2020, 13% in October 2020, 35% in January 2021, 4% in February 2021, 1% in May 2021

Several newspaper markets in Pennsylvania experienced an increase in obituary numbers in spring, while others did not begin to increase until autumn.

Obituary notices published in Allentown, Penn. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 23% in April 2020, 27% in May 2020, 44% in July 2020, 1% in November 2020, 38% in December 2020, 41% in January 2021, 20% in February 2021, 22% in March 2021

Obituary notices published in Butler, Penn. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 13% in July 2020, 12% in August 2020, 47% in November 2020, 44% in December 2020, 45% in January 2021, 7% in April 2021, 9% in May 2021

Obituary notices published in Chambersburg, Penn. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 31% in April 2020, 25% in May 2020, 7% in August 2020, 29% in September 2020, 20% in October 2020, 34% in November 2020, 49% in December 2020, 41% in January 2021, 16% in March 2021

Obituary notices published in Harrisburg, Penn. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 19% in May 2020, 14% in June 2020, 10% in August 2020, 11% in November 2020, 59% in December 2020, 56% in January 2021, 27% in February 2021, 1% in March 2021

Obituary notices published in Pittsburgh, Penn. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 22% in April 2020, 11% in May 2020, 9% in June 2020, 19% in July and August 2020, 18% in September 2020, 11% in October 2020, 24% in November 2020, 57% in December 2020, 46% in January 2021, 34% in March 2021, 5% in May 2021

Obituary notices published in Scranton, Penn. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 40% in April 2020, 49% in May 2020, 7% in June 2020, 15% in July 2020, 10% in August 2020, 1% in September 2020, 6% in October 2020, 15% in December 2020, 30% in January and February 2021

Obituary notices published in State College, Penn. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 60% in April 2020, 26% in May 2020, 6% in June 2020, 36% in August 2020, 12% in October 2020, 48% in November 2020, 67% in December 2020, 47% in January 2021, 32% in February 2021, 36% in March 2021, 1% in May 2021

Obituary notices published in York, Penn. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 25% in June 2020, 17% in July 2020, 7% in August 2020, 16% in September 2020, 11% in October and November 2020, 32% in December 2020, 34% in January and April 2021, 13% in May 2021

Several cities in South Carolina saw a rise in obituary numbers beginning in summer.

Obituary notices published in Anderson, S.C. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 13% in April 2020, 1% in May 2020, 8% in June 2020, 58% in July 2020, 51% in August 2020, 58% in September 2020, 32% in October 2020, 26% in November 2020, 47% in December 2020, 36% in January 2021, 15% in February 2021, 36% in March 2021, 13% in April 2021

Obituary notices published in Charleston, S.C. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 29% in July 2020, 15% in August 2020, 50% in November 2020, 89% in December 2020, 109% in January 2021, 121% in February 2021, 79% in March 2021, 88% in April 2021, 92% in May 2021

Obituary notices published in Greenville, S.C. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 14% in April 2020, 1% in May 2020, 20% in June 2020, 49% in July 2020, 42% in August 2020, 37% in September 2020, 36% in October 2020, 30% in November 2020, 45% in December 2020, 50% in January 2021, 32% in February 2021, 26% in March 2021, 9% in April 2021, 12% in May 2021

Obituary notices published in Spartanburg, S.C. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 11% in May 2020, 23% in July 2020, 22% in August 2020, 4% in September 2020, 22% in December 2020, 58% in January 2021, 37% in February 2021, 55% in March 2021, 52% in April 2021, 37% in May 2021

Several cities in Tennessee saw modest rises in obituary numbers in summer before a more noticeable increase later in the year.

Obituary notices published in Clarksville, Tenn. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 5% in May 2020, 22% in June 2020, 12% in July 2020, 27% in August 2020, 8% in October 2020, 33% in November and December 2020, 34% in January 2021, 9% in February 2021, 22% in March 2021, 8% in April 2021

Obituary notices published in Memphis, Tenn. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 1% in May 2020, 6% in June 2020, 22% in July 2020, 24% in August 2020, 30% in September 2020, 17% in October 2020, 25% in November 2020, 51% in December 2020, 52% in January 2021, 10% in February 2021, 12% in March 2021, 12% in April 2021, 3% in May 2021

Obituary notices published in Nashville, Tenn. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 1% in June 2020, 10% in July 2020, 11% in August 2020, 16% in September 2020, 27% in November 2020, 38% in December 2020, 40% in January 2021, 2% in February 2021, 7% in March 2021, 9% in April 2021

In Texas, several mid-sized metro areas began seeing sharp obituary increases in July, with others beginning to rise in August. These spikes began to slowly subside in most areas in September. Other metro areas saw new increases in autumn and winter.

Obituary notices published in Abilene, Tex. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 15% in May 2020, 1% in July 2020, 25% in September 2020, 52% in November 2020, 25% in December 2020, 60% in January 2021, 20% in February 2021, 24% in April 2021, 16% in May 2021

Obituary notices published in Beaumont, Tex. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 18% in July 2020, 173% in August 2020, 111% in September 2020, 93% in October 2020, 96% in November 2020, 76% in December 2020, 308% in January 2021, 170% in February 2021, 151% in March 2021, 77% in April 2021, 145% in May 2021

Obituary notices published in Brownsville, Tex. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 35% in April 2020, 36% in June 2020, 173% in July 2020, 136% in August 2020, 48% in September 2020, 10% in October 2020, 29% in November 2020, 2% in December 2020, 73% in January 2021, 46% in February 2021, 39% in March 2021, 1% in April 2021, 17% in May 2021

Obituary notices published in Harlingen, Tex. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 7% in April 2020, 31% in June 2020, 113% in July 2020, 154% in August 2020, 25% in November 2020, 22% in December 2020, 68% in January 2021, 34% in February 2021, 22% in March 2021, 12% in April 2021, 34% in May 2021

Obituary notices published in Houston, Tex. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 2% in June 2020, 7% in July 2020, 40% in August 2020, 10% in September 2020, 27% in October 2020, 13% in December 2020, 32% in January 2021, 43% in February 2021, 46% in March 2021, 51% in April 2021, 12% in May 2021

Obituary notices published in McAllen, Tex. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 167% in July 2020, 192% in August 2020, 51% in September 2020, 13% in October 2020, 16% in November 2020, 13% in December 2020, 56% in January 2021, 45% in February 2021, 25% in March 2021, 28% in April 2021, 6% in May 2021

Obituary notices published in San Angelo, Tex. newspapers, 2019 through 2021

Year over year increases: 11% in June 2020, 14% in July 2020, 10% in August 2020, 61% in September 2020, 9% in October 2020, 13% in November 2020, 54% in December 2020, 68% in January 2021, 34% in April 2021, 18% in May 2021

More on obituaries and the pandemic:

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