Prior to the pandemic, life expectancy had been increasing.By Dr. Maria Simbra

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — People have expectations about how long they’re going to live.

But as a population, COVID-19 has hit life expectancy hard. For the first half of 2020, life expectancy was down from 78.8 to 77.8 — the lowest it has been since 2006.

READ MORE: Drivers Feeling The Pain At The Pumps As Gas Prices Continue To Rise Across Pittsburgh Area

“So for a lot of people, they may say to go from 78 to 77 is not that big a deal. I assure you, it’s a huge deal,” says Allegheny Health Network primary care internist Dr. Randolph Peters.

Prior to the pandemic, life expectancy had been increasing for reasons beyond advancements in medical care.

“Better health, better access to nutrition, better self-care,” Dr. Peters said. “It’s about food, your drinking water, the air you breathe. Are you living in a polluted zip code or an unpolluted zip code?”

For that reason, Dr. Peters is not surprised the decrease in life expectancy is steeper for minorities — down nearly three years for African Americans and by nearly two years for Hispanic people. For white Americans, the decline was 0.8 years.

READ MORE: Allegheny Co. Council To Vote On Paid Sick Leave Bill

“The people that got hit the hardest are the ones who already have intergenerational housing, jobs that require them to be physically present. But they can’t work from home and have the least access to health care,” Dr. Peters said.

He points out everyone is connected.

“Whether or not there’s a hospital bed available for you when you get into a car crash is dependent upon whether or not everybody in the zip code you don’t care about has access to health care,” Dr. Peters said.

He predicts life expectancy will drop further as more figures come in. And with coronavirus here to stay and the effects of delayed health care due to the pandemic, getting back to where we were with life expectancy will take a long time.

MORE NEWS: 'Good Eat$ Downtown' Campaign Begins, Aimed At Bringing Business Back To Downtown Restaurants

The CDC’s life expectancy data for all of 2020 will be released mid-year and finalized at the end of 2021.

Dr. Maria Simbra