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

Director of Policy Analysis Emily Johnson was interviewed for this July 31 Denver Post story analyzing Colorado’s 2021 mortality data, which are published by the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment. The article explained the significant impact of COVID-19 on the number of deaths in the state, keeping death rates in 2021 nearly the same as Colorado's record high in 2020. 

Although vaccines dramatically reduced the odds of dying from COVID-19, not enough Coloradans got them in time to make a difference. Colorado recorded 48,284 total deaths in 2021 — 10,363 more deaths than the pre-pandemic average, 5,298 of which were caused by the virus.

“It is disconcerting to see (death) rates are still this high at the end of 2021,” said Johnson. 

Death rates from most chronic conditions dropped in 2021, but not back to their pre-COVID levels. A drug supply tainted with fentanyl also contributed to increased deaths.