COVID a year later is the leading cause of death in Arizona

By: - January 27, 2021 10:51 am

Arizona corona

It has been 366 days since a 26-year-old Arizona State University student became Arizona’s first confirmed COVID-19 case, and the illness caused by the novel coronavirus has surpassed cancer and heart disease as the lead killer of Arizonans. 

That student was likely not the start of the outbreak in Arizona scientists have since learned. After a summer spike in cases that followed the lifting of restrictions meant to curb transmission of the virus, cases ebbed in the early fall. But COVID-19 has surged mightily in the winter, and Arizona now is experiencing record cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

Since the pandemic began, there have been 12,643 deaths, with the highest single day total coming on Jan. 5, 2021. On that day, 137 people were reported to have died from the virus. 

In the past 30 days, more than 4,000 Arizonans have died from COVID-19. Over the last year, COVID has killed more Arizonans than heart disease and cancer, taking its place as the leading cause of death in Arizona, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More Arizonans died of COVID in 2020 than due to accidents, chronic lower respiratory disease and Alzhiemer’s disease combined.

Nearly 9 in 10 of those fatalities have been older Arizonans: Nearly 12,000 of the dead were at least 55 years old. 

In the year COVID has ravaged Arizonan’s lungs, the state has seen two significant spikes in the number of cases. The first one hit in June through July, and the second one started in November, and may be on a downward trend after more than two months. 

Cases reached their first peak on June 29, when 5,480 cases were reported in a single day. Just a few weeks later on July 17, Arizona would report its single highest reported death count for the virus at the time, with 107 deaths. 

As the summer months ended amid more mitigation measures implemented by Gov. Doug Ducey, cases fell and so did the deaths. By October, cases began rising again, accelerating rapidly in November.

On Nov. 23, the state reported over 6,000 cases, the most it had ever seen in a single day and intensive care unit capacity was beginning to dwindle once again. COVID was back stronger than ever. 

The numbers then skyrocketed in December and early January, and the state repeatedly broke records for the number of confirmed cases and deaths: 

  • Nov. 30, 7,971 cases reported. 
  • Dec. 21, 9,078 cases reported. 
  • Dec. 28, 11,533 cases reported. 
  • Jan. 4, 11,929 cases reported. 
  • Dec. 10, 107 deaths reported. 
  • Dec. 17, 130 deaths reported. 
  • Jan. 5, 137 deaths reported. 

Arizona is currently close to breaking another record, according to researchers at the John Hopkins University of Medicine. In July, the record high for those testing positive for the virus was 16.66%, and January stands now at 15.28%. 

According to researchers at COVID Act Now, Arizona averages 96.1 cases per 100,000 residents. 

As of Jan. 27, Arizona reported 5,918 new cases and 195 deaths, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

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Jerod MacDonald-Evoy
Jerod MacDonald-Evoy

Reporter Jerod MacDonald-Evoy joined the Arizona Mirror from the Arizona Republic, where he spent 4 years covering everything from dark money in politics to Catholic priest sexual abuse scandals. He brings strong watchdog sensibilities and creative storytelling skills to the Arizona Mirror.