On January 21, 2021, the Arizona Public Health Association documented a large and unprecedented increase in all-cause mortality in Arizona during 2020 as compared to recent years. Beginning in February 2020, overall mortality was elevated every month compared with the same month in 2019. The peak excess was seen in July with a total mortality rate 64% higher than the rate in July of 2019. While most of the excess was attributed to COVID-19, other causes were also elevated.
Today we publish a new report that provides an update on the excess of all-cause mortality in Arizona since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. We analyzed weekly, monthly, and annual all-cause and selected cause-specific deaths during 2020 and 2021 (through mid-November) using the CDC/NCHS “Excess Deaths Associated with COVID-19” data sets to compare observed deaths to expected deaths based on statistical models of recent trends and seasonality from historical data.
As expected, we found significant excess mortality throughout the course of the pandemic. Since the start of the pandemic, an estimated 36,000 excess deaths have occurred in Arizona due directly or indirectly to the COVID pandemic. The total number of deaths in December. 2020 (9,053) was 73% higher than in 2017-19. The largest peak of excess deaths followed in January 2021 when the largest COVID-19 surge occurred; 10,055 total deaths were reported that month, a death toll 78% higher than the average 5,642 deaths during that same month in 2017-19.
- Since the start of the pandemic, an estimated 36,000 excess deaths have occurred in Arizona due directly or indirectly to the COVID pandemic.
- Overall deaths in Arizona exceeded expected deaths by 29% in 2020 (trailing only New York City’s excess of 50%). Overall Arizona deaths exceeded expectation by 24% in 2021, the largest percent excess deaths of any state.
- The largest monthly excess of deaths occurred in January 2021, when deaths exceeded expectation by 78%; the largest weekly excess of deaths occurred in the week ending January 16, 2021, when deaths exceeded expectation by 83%.
- Excess deaths from causes other than COVID during the pandemic include but are not limited to respiratory diseases, heart diseases, strokes, hypertensive diseases, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s.
- Over the course of the pandemic, COVID deaths accounted for approximately 58% of the total excess deaths based on CDC data.
Editorial Notes: Major contributors to excess all-cause mortality include underreporting/misreporting COVID deaths (especially earlier in the pandemic when testing was extremely limited), limited or delayed access to medical care due to fear of COVID and healthcare systems, and staff that were – and remain – overwhelmed with COVID cases. The root cause of the excess mortality relative to the other states is the inept management of the pandemic by Governor Ducey, former ADHS Director Cara Christ and current Interim ADHS Director Don Herrington.
Low rates and uptake of vaccinations and Governor Ducey & Interim Director Herrington’s resistance to implementing evidence-based interventions like universal indoor public masking requirements and vaccine mandates will lead to many more preventable hospitalizations and deaths among Arizona residents.