Aug 4, 2022 - News

COVID and overdoses drove Colorado's death rate in 2021

Illustration of a person sitting on the ground under a covid-19 shaped shadow
Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Colorado recorded an uptick in deaths related to COVID-19 and overdoses in 2021, according to data newly finalized from the state health department.

The big picture: The death rate in 2021 didn't improve since hitting a record high in 2020. Health experts blame people not getting vaccinated and soaring fentanyl use for the elevated figures.

  • "It is disconcerting to see (death) rates are still this high at the end of 2021," Emily Johnson, the Colorado Health Institute's policy director, told the Denver Post.

By the numbers: The three leading causes of death in 2021 were heart disease, cancer and COVID-19.

  • The state recorded 48,284 deaths last year, with an age-adjusted death rate of 784.8 per 100,000 people — a smidge lower than 2020's rate of 785.4.
  • 5,298 deaths were caused by the coronavirus, averaging a rate of 82.5 per 100,000 people, compared to 72.8 in 2020.
  • 1,943 Coloradans died by overdose — a jump to 32.6 per 100,000 people from 21.6 in 2020.
  • Longstanding demographic disparities persist, with Black residents averaging the highest overall death rate despite seeing a 7% improvement between 2020 and 2021.

What to watch: Whether we see a surge in COVID-19 deaths this year may depend on how quickly vaccines are retooled to fight the latest variants, and how quickly people get them (if they even do so).

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