Why is Arizona’s COVID-19 death rate so high? Here are the theories

By Stephanie Innes | Arizona Republic

 Arizona has emerged as a frontrunner in a COVID-19 race that no state wants to win. It has one of the highest COVID-19 death rates in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Public health experts, physicians and state health officials do not agree on any one factor that has made Arizona so lethal for COVID-19. The death toll as of Friday was a staggering 27,931 and though the latest omicron-fueled wave of illness is on the wane, the deaths continue, with 313 added between Sunday and Thursday of last week. 

The latest CDC ranking, which separates New York City from New York state, places Arizona third-worst in the country, behind New York City and Mississippi, a position the state has maintained throughout most of 2022 to date. Behind Arizona in the CDC ranking as of Friday  were Alabama, New Jersey, Louisiana, Tennessee, West Virginia, Michigan and Arkansas.

However, officials with the Arizona Department of Health Services caution that data collection can vary from state to state, and that not enough information exists to truly know Arizona’s death rate ranking at this point.

The CDC’s COVID Tracker, which reports the death rankings, relies on local jurisdictions to provide timely and accurate data, according to the website. Reporting frequency varies, the CDC says, so counts might increase at different rates.

“I think it’s really difficult to say whether we are third-worst in the country just based on the variability and the timeframes for which different states collect, process and classify their data. It’s hard to say,” said Jessica Rigler, who is the state health department’s assistant director for the division of public health preparedness.

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