Arizona holds highest adjusted COVID-19 death rate in U.S.

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A new report in the medical journal, The Lancet, shows Arizona experienced the highest adjusted death rate in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, Arizona’s death rate was about the same as the world’s hardest hit countries — Russia, Bulgaria and Peru.

States with higher poverty, lower rates of educational attainment, less access to quality health care and lower levels of interpersonal trust saw disproportionately higher rates of COVID infections and deaths. The report also found high vaccination rates were linked to fewer deaths.

Executive Director of the Arizona Public Health Association, Will Humble, says the report provides compelling evidence that Arizona should have pushed residents to get vaccinated through incentives or employment requirements. He says Governor Ducey did not — and in fact, issued executive orders prohibiting vaccine mandates. The study also found that while there was no association between political affiliation of a governor and death rates– one key indicator of infections and total COVID deaths was the share of people who voted for President Trump in the 2020 presidential election.

What do we mean by “adjusted death rate?”

“We’ve talked about how Arizona has been neck-and-neck with Mississippi with the highest COVID-19 death rate using a crude tests like number of deaths divided by number of people per capita. This study takes a more sophisticated view of it and says, ‘We’re going to account for those things that we know put people at higher risk.’ We knew from the very beginning that age is one of the biggest risk factors from dying from an infection with COVID, same thing with obesity, diabetes, COPD, those types of chronic medical conditions,” said Humble.

However, he did note that age and chronic illnesses, “are not equally distributed among the states,” said Humble.

Was Arizona high in cases or just deaths?

“Deaths. We were up there with cases of course, but where we really stood out was with deaths. There wasn’t a state even close after adjusting. Mississippi is right with us on a crude rate, but Arizona was by far worse after adjusting for age and chronic medical conditions,” said Humble.

Will Humble

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