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Increased deaths from COVID-19 and overdoses canceled out progress against other diseases in Colorado last year, meaning the state’s mortality rate barely budged from its 2020 high.

While the raw number of deaths rose by 1,428 from 2020 to 2021, the state’s overall death rate ticked down slightly — from 785.4 deaths per 100,000 people to 784.8, after adjusting for population growth and aging. That’s a small enough change that it could be just statistical noise, according to state health officials

The state’s 2021 mortality data, finalized this month by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, shows middle-aged people were especially hard-hit, the gap in death rates between white Coloradans and people of color narrowed slightly, and men’s life expectancy dropped more than women’s.

2020 was an inarguably bad year, with the pandemic contributing to above-average death rates for all major causes in Colorado except chronic lung disease and the general “influenza and pneumonia” category, which doesn’t include pneumonia caused by COVID-19.

But the year ended with hopes that vaccines would end the days of mass casualties from the virus and deaths from other causes would gradually return to normal as people were able to seek medical care and social support more easily.

That didn’t happen. While the COVID-19 vaccines did dramatically reduce the odds of dying, not enough people got them. A drug supply tainted with fentanyl drove overdose deaths to new heights. And though death rates from most chronic conditions fell in 2021, they didn’t get back to their pre-pandemic levels.

COVID-19 was the biggest factor by far, though.

— Full story via Meg Wingerter, The Denver Post 

What’s killing Coloradans? Increase in COVID, overdose deaths keep state’s mortality level elevated

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See more great photos like this on The Denver Post’s Instagram account.

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