FILE - Arizona ambulance

An ambulance is parked at Arizona General Hospital shown Wednesday, June 10, 2020, in Laveen, Ariz., as Arizona hospitals that are expected to be able to treat new cases of coronavirus without going into crisis mode were above 80% capacity Tuesday, a milestone that should trigger an automatic stop to elective surgeries at affected hospitals. The state is dealing with a surge in virus cases and hospitalizations that experts say is likely tied to Gov. Doug Ducey's ending of statewide closure orders in mid-May. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(The Center Square) – Arizona has seen thousands of more deaths in 2020 than the same seven months in the nine years prior, more than officials have attributed to COVID-19.

study released in late August by the Arizona Public Health Association analyzed death rates by month in the state since 2011. They found 2020's rate of deaths per 100,000 residents began to increase beyond the norm in April and May but then rose significantly in June and July, the latter seeing a 58 percent increase in mortality rate from July of 2019. The state saw an estimated 108 deaths per 100,000 people in July. 

The APHA report found 7,100 more deaths in the first seven months of 2020 than Arizona saw from the same time in 2019. Considering the state attributes 4,100 deaths in those months to COVID-19, that still leaves 3,000 deaths unaccounted for, representing a departure from the regular death rate. 

study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that excess "all-cause" deaths were 28 percent higher than the official tally of COVID-19–reported deaths from March through May. They attribute the excess deaths to unknown COVID-19 infections.

The APHA, which has criticized Gov. Doug Ducey for not implementing restrictions as severe as other states, suggests those deaths are tied to the pandemic differently. 

"[P]ersons with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease may have developed a mild SARS CoV2 infection that worsened their underlying medical condition," they say. "Only a more detailed review of the medical record and death certificate would reveal that the coronavirus was a core cause of the death."

They say the suspension of elective procedures could have attributed to the spike in death rate compared to other years as well as outright fear of COVID-19 exposure keeping people from visiting hospitals when they otherwise would have.

The report rules out suicides and overdoses for the uptick, although the Maricopa County Department of Public Health says they have seen an uptick in accidental poisonings. 

Staff Reporter

Cole Lauterbach reports on Illinois and Arizona government and statewide issues for The Center Square. He has produced radio shows for stations in Central Illinois and created award-winning programs for Comcast SportsNet Chicago.