This week’s Public Health Policy Update provides an overview of Arizona’s pandemic experience. Over the last couple of weeks we have put together a couple of documents that highlight the epidemiology and a review of the events of 2020 Arizona’s experience.

Our all-cause mortality report examines total mortality over the course of 2020. Not surprisingly, we found a large increase in all-cause mortality in Arizona during 2020 as compared to previous years. Significant increases in all-cause mortality are seen in June and August with profound increases in July and December. January 2021 will likely be even more deadly than December and July 2020.

Inside our all-cause mortality report you’ll find a table highlighting the percent change between 2019 and 2020. July had the largest percent change, with a 64% increase in all-cause mortality compared to 2019. Total mortality in December 2020 was 61% higher than 2019. All-cause mortality for the year 2020 was 23% higher than in 2019.

Arizona recorded 14,972 more deaths in 2020 than in 2019. According to the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) data dashboard, about 11,528 of these deaths have been a direct result of a SARS CoV2 infection. This suggests that an additional 3,444 deaths during this period may be indirectly attributable to the pandemic.

These additional deaths are likely in part due to the “great displacement” that occurred in 2020 as hospitals were filled to capacity because of the policy decisions that were made by Governor Ducey and Director Christ.

Hospitals have been operating under contingency standards of care for much of 2020 because evidence-based interventions that could have slowed the spread of the SARS CoV2 virus were not implemented by Governor Ducey and Director Christ.

Admission and discharge decisions have been altered out of necessity. Non-emergency procedures have been postponed and canceled during much of 2020.  Tens of thousands (perhaps hundreds of thousands) of procedures were postponed or canceled causing delays in care that may be responsible for many of the additional deaths.

Also, many persons voluntarily delayed care during the 2020 because of fears of coronavirus infections in healthcare facilities. These decisions may have also resulted in deaths indirectly related to the novel coronavirus.

Persons with a host of conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease may have developed a mild SARS CoV2 infection that worsened their underlying medical condition. Only a more detailed review of the medical record and death certificate would reveal that the coronavirus was a core cause of the death.

The Governor and Director Christ have previously suggested that increases in poisonings and suicide were in-part driving increases in mortality. We could find no such evidence in our analysis.