SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – New research shows people with Dementia are at an even greater risk of catching Covid-19 and twice as likely to die than previously thought.

The findings can’t be entirely explained, but separate from COVID, Alzheimer’s is the fourth leading cause of death in the state of Utah.

“There’s a need to protect patients with dementia as a part of the strategy to control the COVID-19 pandemic.”

That’s according to a new study released this week in The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.

The conclusion is the result of researchers analyzing the electronic records of 61.9 million adult and senior patients in the United States up to August 21st of last year.

The findings point beyond common COVID risk factors like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity.

And conclude, Americans with dementia are twice as likely to die from COVID, but researchers still aren’t exactly sure why.

About 5.8 million Americans and 50 million people worldwide, 65 and older, are living with Dementia or Alzheimer’s.

The latest numbers for Utah show in 2017, about 30,000 adults in the same age range were impacted.

By 2025 that number is projected to increase to 42,000 adults representing a 40% increase.

The new findings come at a time when long-term care facilities in Utah are seeing a “distinction” when it comes to Dementia patients dying from COVID-19.

“One of the other unique distinguishing features among our deaths in long-term care facilities is the presence of dementia.”

Back in late November, ABC4 spoke with Michelle Hofmann, MD, MPH of the Utah Health Department.

Hofmann tracks the number of COVID-19 deaths.

At that time, out of 808 total deaths, 295 were in long-term care facilities.

“That’s actually an improvement over the course of the pandemic,” said Hofmann.

In numbers released by the department on Wednesday, out of the 17 new deaths being reported nearly half were residents of long-term care facilities.