Arizona 2021 death rate increase #1 in the country

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The U.S. saw a record number of deaths from all causes in 2021, and Arizona led the nation with the highest percentage increase in deaths last year. We talked to Arizona Public Health Association Executive Director Will Humble about the sobering numbers.

“If you rack up all 50 states, Arizona has the highest percentage increase in all-cause mortality in 2021 and 2020,” Humble said. “In 2021, Arizona had a 38% increase in all-cause mortality.”

Many of the deaths came from COVID, particularly around the later months of 2020 and the earliest months of 2021, when infection was widespread and the vaccine was not fully available or widely taken, Humble said.

Additionally, many other medical deaths can be traced back to COVID as well, as standard medical procedures were frequently put on hold in an effort to avoid the virus.

“I think a lot of the heart disease stuff was where people might not have gone into the cardiologist, or had some chest pain and just said ‘I’m just gonna power through this.’,” Humble said. “And it was the delayed procedures because remember, at the beginning of 2021, we were in a crisis standard of care. In January 2021, 68% of all the hospital beds were COVID people.”

While the data from the past two years is stark, Humble says there’s no need to be panicked now.

“We’re not seeing a big influx into the hospitals, the hospitals are actually looking really good right now, and they’re catching up on those old procedures. There are some hospitals that have no COVID patients at all,” Humble said. “I’m not saying we’ll never have another rise in cases. When all the antibodies from the cases wears off, in a few months, maybe the summer, there’ll be a rise in cases, but the data shows this won’t translate to a rise in hospitalizations.”

In addition to the deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic, Arizona saw a sharp rise in accidental deaths due to overdoses, especially from fentanyl, Humble said.

“The thing about fentanyl is that even a very small mistake or change in the dosage creates a lethal event. It’s so incredibly powerful as a drug,” Humble said.

Will Humble, Arizona public health association executive director

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