AzPHA Report: Arizona had highest increase in excess deaths during pandemic


Soraya Marashi


On Dec. 19, the Arizona Public Health Association (AzPHA) published a new report providing an update on the excess of all-cause mortality and selected cause-specific mortality in Arizona since the start of the pandemic. This report updates earlier data in 2020 that revealed an unprecedented increase in all-cause mortality in Arizona compared to recent years due to COVID-19.


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The report included numerous findings from data between 2020 and mid-November of 2021. The data ultimately revealed significant excess mortality throughout the course of the pandemic in Arizona, with an estimated 36,000 excess deaths occurring due directly or indirectly to COVID-19. 

The report highlights Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) data indicating there were 16,824 more deaths total in 2020 than in 2017-2019, representing a 29% excess. COVID-19 reportedly accounted for 50% of this total excess. In 2021, overall Arizona deaths exceeded expected deaths by 24%, making it the state with the highest increase in excess deaths in the country. 

The chart below compares the total average monthly deaths for 2017-2019, 2020, and 2021. The largest monthly number of excess deaths occurred in Jan.2021, when deaths exceeded expectation by 78%.


Image: Arizona Public Health Association


AzPHA’s report also highlights the CDC’s data on excess deaths in Arizona. The chart below compares weekly provisional deaths to the CDC’s expected deaths in 2020 and 2021, showing an 83% excession of overall deaths for the week ending Jan. 16, 2021. 


Image: Arizona Public Health Association


The report also notes that excess deaths from causes other than COVID-19 during the pandemic include respiratory diseases, heart diseases, strokes, hypertensive diseases, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and more. The chart below shows the percent change in the rates of the 15 leading causes of death in Arizona from 2018-2019 to 2020, with significant increases in several causes of death. 


Image: Arizona Public Health Association


The chart below compares the number of monthly COVID-19 deaths in Arizona compared to the number of excess deaths from all causes. The CDC data reported that approximately 58% of excess deaths in Arizona could be attributed to known COVID-19 deaths.


Image: Arizona Public Health Association


Additionally, the report emphasized that, as the new and more transmissible variants of COVID-19 spread, booster vaccination rates in Arizona remain one of the lowest in the U.S., and the state continues to have one of the highest national death rates from COVID-19.