COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Local data shows the current leading cause of deaths in El Paso County is COVID-19.
According to the El Paso County Health Department, in 2020, 608 people died from COVID-19. Since the state began monitoring data in March 2020, 1,027 people have passed away from the virus.
The next leading cause of death in the county was due to “accidental” deaths.
“That includes car crashes, drug overdoses, people falling - all of those combined equals about 356 cases," said Dr. Leon Kelly, Coroner for El Paso County.
According to Kelly, deaths defined as "natural" were also a leading cause of death. "Natural" deaths can be attributed to aging, disease, or a health condition.
Out of the 309 "natural" reported deaths, 155 were heart-related, 43 deaths from chronic alcohol use, and seven were cancer-related.
Additionally, 55 deaths were considered homicides in 2020. Kelly also said deaths considered suicides were at a record high.
“Last year we had 178 suicides but we are on track now to be about 20 behind that,” Dr. Kelly said.
Looking forward, health experts predict with help from the COVID vaccine and natural immunity, the death rate could be lower this year when compared to last
“Remember, the vaccines are slowing down the rate of infection. They are slowing down the amount of people actually becoming ill and passing the disease on," said Stephen Goodwin, COVID Data Expert for the Colorado Health Department. "Many of them, if they do get sick are not having serious symptoms and becoming really ill, and many fewer people are dying which we have already seen.”
While the El Paso County Coroner's Office has seen as many as 14 death certificates labeling COVID as the cause in one day, Kelly said there are other concerns in the community that need to be tackled.
“The biggest threat we are seeing here is fentanyl deaths. last year we had a total of 47 fentanyl deaths and for 2021 we will approach 100," Dr, Kelly said.