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FOX 13 Investigates: Total Utah deaths took a sharp increase in 2020

Posted at 9:41 PM, Feb 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-11 23:50:52-05

SALT LAKE CITY — The Coronavirus has now killed more than 1,700 Utahns, but they don’t appear to be the only victims of the pandemic.

Total deaths in Utah increased in 2020. In itself, that’s not a surprise. With the state’s population gains, total deaths have been rising about 2% annually.

But in 2020 deaths increased 14.3%, according to data provided by the Utah Department of Health. It added to 2,783 extra deaths. The coronavirus can only account for about half of that.

“Some of these may be indirectly related to the pandemic,” said Robert Anderson, the chief of the Mortality Statistics Branch at the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center For Health Statistics. He received his bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University

Researchers like Anderson have been watching a similar national trend. A study released in October from the CDC found there had been almost 300,000 excess deaths in the first nine months of the U.S. pandemic.

“Nationally,” Anderson said, “about two-thirds of the excess deaths are attributable to COVID-19 directly. The other third, it may be a combination of things.”

That might include undiagnosed COVID-19 cases, people with other ailments who are unable to receive medical care at busy hospitals, people unwilling to seek care and increases in accidental deaths like drug overdoses.

Read: How many ICU beds does Utah have? Wrong question

The Utah Department of Health is still examining all the reasons for the increases in the Beehive State, but one piece of the data is already in. Traffic deaths in Utah increased by 13% in 2020, brining the total to 281.

Read: Despite pandemic, more people died on Utah roads in 2020 than 2019

“My guess is we’ll continue to have some of these issues as long as the pandemic is going on,” Anderson said.

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