The Likelihood of Dying from COVID After Testing Positive in Every State

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The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed 5.5 million lives globally as of early January 2022. More than 840,000 of those deaths have been in the United States — more than the total number of U.S. troops killed in battle in every war since the American Revolution. 

Since the first known infection in the United States in early 2020, COVID-19 survival rates have improved considerably. Due in part to improved treatments as well as vaccines, which can reduce the severity of symptoms, those infected with the virus today are less likely to die than those who were infected earlier in the pandemic. 

Currently, approximately 1.4% of known COVID-19 infections in the United States have resulted in death. This percentage varies from state to state, however, and in some parts of the country, infections are far more likely to be fatal than in others. 

Using data from Johns Hopkins University’s interactive dashboard, 24/7 Tempo reviewed the case fatality ratio — the likelihood of dying from COVID-19 — in each state. States are ranked by the number of COVID-19 deaths as a share of the number of confirmed cases, or the infection fatality rate. 

It is important to note that the case fatality rate is an imperfect measure, as it only takes into account the number of confirmed cases, and in all likelihood, there have been a significant number of unconfirmed cases in the U.S. Unconfirmed cases include asymptomatic people who never got tested and others whose illness went undocumented. As a result, the fatality rates listed likely overestimate the risk of death. 

The official death toll from COVID-19 is also considered to be an underestimate, meaning the case fatality ratio could also be an underestimate in some cases. A recent report in The Lancet suggests that COVID-19 has likely caused as many as 195,000 more deaths nationwide in the last two years than the official figure.

Variations in case fatality rates by state are the result of a wide range of variables, including vaccination rates and overall population health as well as reporting. Americans who are fully vaccinated are far less likely to die from COVID-19 than those who are unvaccinated. The states with the highest risk of death from COVID-19 tend to be those with vaccination rates below the 63.6% U.S. average. Here is a look at 13 reasons Americans are not getting vaccinated

Additionally, certain pre-existing diseases or conditions can make COVID-19 far more deadly than it would otherwise be. While there are many conditions associated with more severe COVID-19 outcomes, two of the most common are obesity and diabetes. In states where the risk of death from COVID-19 is higher, rates of both diabetes and obesity tend to be higher than average. Here is a look at the most obese states in America.  

To find the likelihood of dying from COVID-19 after testing positive, 24/7 Tempo reviewed COVID-19 data from Johns Hopkins University’s interactive dashboard, whose methodology is explained in a Lancet article. States were ranked by their case fatality ratio — the number recorded deaths * 100 / number confirmed cases. Additional data from JHU includes total deaths, total cases, and cases per 100,000 people. We also added the death rate — deaths per 100,000 people. All data was collected on Jan. 11 and is as of Jan. 10.

Data on the share of the population that are fully vaccinated for each state came from state and local health departments. Data on diabetes and obesity rates among the adult population in each state County Health Rankings & Roadmap, a collaboration of University of Minnesota and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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