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Deaths in Colorado Jump Nearly 20% During First 2 months of Coronavirus Pandemic, State Data Shows

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Colorado recorded a nearly 20% increase in deaths in March and April as the novel coronavirus swept the state, according to state data that provides an early glimpse of the broader impact of the pandemic.

The data from the state health department shows deaths in Colorado are on the rise from 2019 levels, largely due to the impact of the COVID-19 respiratory disease. However, medical and public health experts cautioned it’s still too early to measure the pandemic’s full toll. 

The additional numbers also could include those who died indirectly from the outbreak, such as people who didn’t seek needed medical treatment. 

The pandemic is affecting every part of society, meaning it could alter mortality rates in multiple ways, said Dr. Lisa Miller, professor of epidemiology at the Colorado School of Public Health.

For example, she said, has there been an increase in domestic violence as more people stay home? Or are there fewer heart attacks or severe asthma attacks because the air is cleaner from fewer cars on the road? 

“I certainly think it’s something to investigate,” Miller said. “The list of things to investigate is long.” 

Tracking the number of people who died either directly or indirectly as a result of the outbreak is complex, and therefore, the numbers from public health officials are more of an estimate, according to the experts. 

Even with influenza, a disease that has been around for decades, the number of deaths each year is estimated — not calculated precisely — because public health officials know that they can’t capture them all as not everyone is tested for the flu, Miller said. 

With COVID-19, testing has been limited since the start of the outbreak and there are far more cases of COVID-19 in Colorado than have been confirmed. It’s also widely believed the novel coronavirus likely was in Colorado as early as January. 

As a result, it’s possible there are COVID-19 deaths that were missed and classified as something else. Likewise, there are deaths that could be counted as COVID-19 that were caused by another illness, according to medical experts. 

“You’ve got a brand new disease and to think that this is a straightforward issue would be naive,” Miller said. “It’s not straightforward.”   


Read the full story at the Denver Post.

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