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Stories, Stats, Impacts: Wyoming Public Media is here to keep you current on the news surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

COVID-19 was Wyoming's third leading cause of death last year

SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, shown in red, have heavily infected a cell in this colorized scanning electron micrograph. SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19.
NIAID/NIH/Flickr
SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, shown in red, have heavily infected a cell in this colorized scanning electron micrograph. SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19.

There was a sharp increase in deaths in Wyoming in 2021, driven in large part by deaths from COVID-19.

That's according to numbers released by the Wyoming Department of Health's Vital Statistics Services office, which show that suicides and overdoses also went up.

COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death last year, killing 1,025 state residents. The virus killed nearly as many as cancer (1,151) and heart disease (1,113), the two leading causes.

Deputy state registrar Guy Beaudoin said deaths have steadily increased since 2012 because of Wyoming's aging population. In 2019, Wyoming recorded about 5,100 deaths. That number was expected to rise steadily in 2020 and 2021.

"If our current trend were going on, we would have expected about 5,200 to 5,300 deaths, just using a simple trend line," Beaudoin said.

Instead, the number of deaths has shot up dramatically, to nearly 6,000 in 2020 and to 6,572 in 2021.

Suicides and overdoses also contributed to the total number.

"With those two things, suicides and overdoses, even a gradual increase is concerning," Beaudoin said.

Suicides rose from 169 in 2019 to 189 in 2021, continuing a steady upward trend for the state.

Overdoses are also continuing to rise, but they're still below what Wyoming was seeing in the early 2010s. There were 95 overdose deaths recorded on Wyoming death certificates in 2021, up from 90 the year before and 81 the year before that.

On the flip side, Wyoming also had 100 more births in 2021 than the year before. There were more than 6,200 resident births last year.

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