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After three years, COVID-19 is no longer a leading cause of death in Wyoming

For the first time since the pandemic hit Wyoming, COVID-19 is no longer a leading cause of death for residents of the state.
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COVID-19 is no longer among the top five causes of death for Wyoming residents, according to newly published Department of Health statistics for 2023. The coronavirus had been a leading cause of death for Wyomingites ever since 2020.

Among Wyoming residents, there were a total of 5,566 deaths last year. That's a decrease from 2021, during the height of the pandemic, when Wyoming saw 6,574 deaths in a single year. In fact, 2023 saw the lowest death toll since 2019.

Kim Deti, spokeswoman for the Wyoming Department of Health, said many factors affect the death toll. Wyoming's population is both aging and growing, so some increase in the death toll is to be expected. But the impact of the pandemic still stands out in the data.

"What we did see with the pandemic is some very significant jumps in deaths," Deti said. "And particularly, if you're looking at that data in 2021, that's when we had the delta variant and it hit some people pretty hard."

The top five leading causes of death last year were heart diseases, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, accidents or adverse effects, and cerebrovascular diseases.

In both 2020 and 2021, the coronavirus was the third leading cause of death in the state. In 2022, it was the fifth leading cause.

Deti said COVID-19 has now fallen to possibly the tenth or eleventh most common cause of death, and is certainly killing fewer people than it did during its height. But there may be more COVID-19 deaths occurring than the state is aware of, given that testing has decreased as the threat has receded.

"Part of the problem with that is, we've been very consistent in counting COVID-19-related deaths based on what's been listed on death certificates by the people who fill them out," Deti said. "If there's less testing going on, they may not put that on there. It may or may not have been a factor in someone's death, and we may not have the test results to indicate it. People just aren't testing the same manner that they were."

Births among Wyoming residents have also gone down, but not as much. There were just under 6,000 newborns in 2023. Deti said this continues a well-known trend.

"Other than the slight increase that we had in 2021, we have had fewer births, pretty consistently each year, among Wyoming resident mothers for quite some time," she said.

Deti said the most common birth month of 2023 was August, during which 553 Wyoming mothers gave birth.

Jeff is a part-time reporter for Wyoming Public Media, as well as the owner and editor of the Laramie Reporter, a free online news source providing in-depth and investigative coverage of local events and trends.
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