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Mountain West states’ COVID-19 death rates stand out in new analysis

An illustration of an ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses.
Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAMS
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The national COVID-19 death rate between January 2020 and July 2022 was 372 deaths per 100,000 people, according to a study published in The Lancet last week.

A new analysis shows that states in the Mountain West suffered some of the highest COVID-19 death rates in the U.S. between January 2020 and July 2022.

The national average was 372 deaths from COVID-19 per 100,000 people, according to a study published in The Lancet last week.

Arizona’s rate was 581 deaths per 100,000 people – the highest in the nation. New Mexico had the third-highest rate with 521 deaths per 100,000 people.

The death rates were also well above the national average in the other Mountain West states: Colorado (473 per 100,000), Idaho (469), Utah (467), Nevada (453), Wyoming (422) and Montana (420).

That’s partly because many Mountain West states are “frontier-minded,” said Emma Castro, a researcher at the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.

“The states were more reticent to use mandates, and felt that it was up to the individual to decide what mitigating measures they wanted to take to protect themselves against COVID,” Castro said.

The study, which assessed pandemic policies and behaviors, shows states that implemented more mask and vaccine mandates had lower infection rates. Moreover, lower COVID death rates were found in states with higher levels of education, lower levels of poverty, and more trust in the federal government and scientific community. Nationwide, Hawaii had the lowest rates at 147 deaths per 100,000, followed by New Hampshire (215) and Maine (281).

Castro noted that states with a larger share of the population identifying as Black, Hispanic, or American Indian and Alaska Native tended to have higher infection rates.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Kaleb is an award-winning journalist and KUNR’s Mountain West News Bureau reporter. His reporting covers issues related to the environment, wildlife and water in Nevada and the region.
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