Five hundred dead.
After Thursday’s report, Utah officially passed that threshold, with 501 official COVID-19 deaths in our state. And the medical examiners are very clear: these are deaths that would not have happened if it weren’t for COVID-19.
Let’s break down those deaths to try to further understand the toll of the pandemic. How does that compare to other causes of death in Utah? How old were those who died, and how healthy were they? Were men or women more affected, and which ethnicities suffered the most? And where and how did those 500 people live? In typical Andy Larsen style, we’ll lean heavily on graphs.
How COVID-19 compares to other causes of death in Utah
As we’ve explored before, cause of death stats take a long time to accurately compile. But because of the ever-changing nature of the COVID-19 crisis, it’s been important to compile daily data of the current state of the pandemic.
Still, we can compare what has happened over the past 210 days — since the pandemic began — to what deaths typically occur in a 210-day period in Utah. And when we do that, we find that COVID-19 is responsible for about as many deaths as strokes are. It’s about the 5th or 6th leading cause of death in our state.
And during the peak of deaths in July, COVID-19 was the third-leading killer in Utah.
That being said, Utah ranks just 44th in deaths per capita among U.S. states despite ranking 18th in cases per capita. That’s because Utah has a very young population (the state is first in the U.S. in percentage of the population under 18) as well as a very healthy population (Utah is in the bottom five in obesity, for example).
Nearly half of Utah’s 501 deaths are from the 65-84 age group. Nearly a quarter more are from those over 85. The median age of those killed is 75. We’ve known for awhile that this virus hits older people harder than younger people.
Still, over a quarter of Utah’s deaths came from the non-elderly age categories, those middle-aged or slightly above.
The state’s stats show that 78% of the people who died had at least one preexisting condition, think heart disease, diabetes or obesity, among others. And just over 60% of them were male. Interestingly, only 51.3% died in a hospital.
Over half of the Utahns who have died are white — a pretty big under-representation since 78% of the state is white. When you adjust for population counts, it’s Utah’s American Indian and Pacific Islander populations that have been hardest hit.
There’s no question: the pandemic has been worse in San Juan County than any other area of the state. About 1 in 500 people in San Juan County has died from the coronavirus.
Beyond that, it’s Salt Lake County and Wasatch County that has seen the most deaths: 23 per 100,000 residents.
The state reveals only a limited amount of data about where people caught the virus. We know that four healthcare workers have died from the coronavirus, along with 15 workplace deaths. But Utah’s coronavirus dashboard doesn’t separate deaths by method of viral transmission, so it’s hard to know how many of these people got it from the community vs. a friend or family member.
Still, there is one big category we know about: 212 of Utah’s deaths have been residents of long-term care facilities.
Of course, each of these deaths isn’t just a statistic, it’s a person. My colleagues have been documenting their stories for months now. But hopefully, this report sheds some light on Utah’s 500 deaths — how, where, and who they happened to.
Tell us about Utah’s COVID-19 victims
• The Salt Lake Tribune knows the identities of only a fraction of the Utahns who have died from the coronavirus. The rest are known only by those close to them.
• We are asking families and friends to help us identify every Utahn who has died from the virus. Please email names and photos to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Andy Larsen is a data columnist who is focusing on the coronavirus. He is also one of The Salt Lake Tribune’s Utah Jazz beat writers. You can reach him at email@example.com.