Utah’s COVID-19 death rate is lower than national average: New research explains what may be the cause

Coronavirus Updates

FILE – In this Aug. 17, 2021, file photo, nursing coordinator Beth Springer looks into a patient’s room in a COVID-19 ward at the Willis-Knighton Medical Center in Shreveport, La. A decline in COVID-19 cases in the United States over the last several weeks has given overwhelmed hospitals some relief, but administrators are bracing for yet another possible surge as cold weather drives people indoors. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – On Tuesday, Utah marked a bleak COVID-19 milestone as the statewide virus death toll surpassed 3,000. Between Friday and Monday, 31 virus-related deaths were reported.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. is averaging 215 COVID-19 related deaths per 100,000 people, reporting a total of 714,243 deaths since January 21, 2020. Since the same date, Utah has reported 3,025 virus deaths, a rate of 93 COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 people – one of the lowest rates in the nation.

COVID-19 Death Rate in the US Reported to the CDC, by State_Territory (deaths per 100,000) as of Oct. 13, 2021. (CDC)

New research from the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute with the University of Utah has found the state’s COVID-19 cumulative per-capita death rate was 64.9 deaths per 100,000, lower than the U.S. rate of 167.1 from April 1, 2020, to March 31, 2021. Researchers say 51.4% of Utah’s lower COVID-19 death rate is due to the age, sex, and racial/ethnic composition of its population.

Numerous health officials have said COVID-19 is generally deadlier for those who are older, male, and racial and ethnic minorities. According to researchers, “even if Utah’s COVID-19 response mirrored the U.S.’s response, we would expect Utah to have a lower COVID-19 death rate.” This is largely in part to Utah’s young population – the state has the youngest median age nationwide – and a lower share of racial and ethnic minorities, the report explains.

Gardner researchers also found that Utah’s COVID-19 death rate has consistently been lower than the national average. While it follows the same trend, in a sense, the data shows Utah’s death rates remain lower than the national average.

Here is a look at one of the figures researchers shared comparing the death rate by age, sex, and race/ethnicity in Utah and the U.S. from April 2020-2021:

Provisional Death Rate (per 100k) Comparisons by Age, Sex, and Race/Ethnicity, United States and Utah, April 2020-2021 (Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute)

Overall, researchers say Utah’s “younger age structure, different racial and ethnic composition, and sex distribution” play a part in the state’s lower than the national average COVID-19 death rate. According to the research, which you can see at the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute’s website, the data was collected before the delta variant wave of COVID-19 cases and deaths.

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