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COVID-19 leading cause of death in Arizona during pandemic

Coronavirus outpaces both heart disease and cancer - KOLD's Bud Foster reports

TUCSON, Ariz. (KYMA, KECY) - "Being in the hospital and recovered, that's bad, but being dead in the ground...that's worse."

The headline says it all. According to the Arizona Public Health Association, Arizona is the only state in the U.S. where COVID-19 has been the leading cause of death during the pandemic, surpassing even heart disease and cancer.

"To beat those two historical killers, that's a really meaningful statistic," says Dr. Joe Gerald with the University of Arizona College of Public Health. "The extreme toll COVID-19 has taken on Arizona is not bad luck, or bad geography, it's bad policy."

It's a state which refused mask mandates, and has fought vaccine mandates at all level. It's mounted challenges to the City of Tucson's vaccine mandate, where just Wednesday, the City Council announced its vaccine mandate is convincing more of its employees to get vaccinated. Mandates, we are told, work.

"We know the underlying problem - not enough Arizonans are vaccinated, and not enough are taking precautions given the transmissions in our communities. So, if we're not going to vaccinate and we are not going to protect ourselves, then this is what happens," said Dr. Gerald.

So what will tomorrow look like, with the holidays jut around the corner? The experts believe the cases will continue to trend upwards, but there is a bit of a silver lining to what looks like a challenging winter.

"We're not going to see what we saw last winter. It's not going to be that bad, but it's still going to be rough. And, it's not going to be much solace to the people who've died."

Which means for many families, the holidays may not be something to celebrate.

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Lisa Sturgis

Lisa Sturgis returned to KYMA as its Digital Content Director in September of 2019, but she and her family have a long history in the Desert Southwest. Her grandmother first moved to Yuma in the late 1940’s, and Lisa got her first job in TV news at KYMA in 1987.

Reach out to Lisa with story ideas and your digital feedback at

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