A Colorado coroner is outraged over the “inflated” coronavirus-related death totals in Grand County.
According to Brenda Bock, the county’s five COVID-19 deaths include two gunshot wound victims.
The state health department, however, says they’re simply following protocol from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by including anyone who’s tested positive for COVID-19 within the past 30 days.
“It’s absurd that they would even put that on there,” Bock said, according to 4CBS Denver. “Would you want to go to a county that has really high death numbers? Would you want to go visit that county because they’re contagious? You know, I might get it, and I could die if all of a sudden one county has a high death count. We don’t have it, and we don’t need those numbers inflated.”
“The state health department says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requires them to report people who’ve died with COVID-19 in their systems because it’s crucial for public health surveillance,” 4CBS Denver reported, outlining how the state codes coronavirus deaths:
- Deaths due to COVID-19:
- This is based on CDC coding of death certificates where COVID-19 is listed as the cause of death or a significant condition contributing to death.
- Deaths among COVID-19 cases:
- This reflects people who died with COVID-19, but COVID-19 may not have been the cause of death listed on the death certificate.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment emphasized that their coding is “required by the CDC” and essential to “public health surveillance.”
“This information is required by the CDC and is crucial for public health surveillance, as it provides more information about disease transmission and can help identify risk factors among all deaths across populations,” the health department states on their Frequently Asked Questions page.
In September, the CDC informed the public that out of all the deaths attributed to COVID, a mere 6% of those deaths had COVID alone cited as the cause, noting, “For deaths with conditions or causes in addition to COVID-19, on average, there were 2.6 additional conditions or causes per death.”
Under a section subtitled “Comorbidities,” the CDC reported:
Table 3 shows the types of health conditions and contributing causes mentioned in conjunction with deaths involving coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). For 6% of the deaths, COVID-19 was the only cause mentioned. For deaths with conditions or causes in addition to COVID-19, on average, there were 2.6 additional conditions or causes per death. The number of deaths with each condition or cause is shown for all deaths and by age groups.
After the shocking statistic went viral, some fact-checking sites cautioned against it being cited or viewed in isolation. They did acknowledge, however, that the CDC update is not inaccurate.
For example, Axios offered its own “reality check” on the statistic: “While the cause of death listed as solely from the coronavirus occurred in 6% of cases in the U.S. from Feb. 1 to Aug. 22, this doesn’t mean that the virus was not a contributing factor or, indeed, the leading cause in the other 94%,” the outlet said. “The U.S. virus death toll would be much lower if this were the case.”
Dr. Jason Salemi, an epidemiologist at the University of South Florida, said that there is “nothing misleading in the CDC report itself,” but stressed that the 6% statistic is often being taken “out of context.”
Salemi said what the “CDC’s update really means is that 94% of the people who died from the coronavirus had at least one other health condition, in addition to COVID-19, that could have contributed to their passing,” ABC7 WWSB reported at the time.
“After infection, the virus might lead to something like sepsis which then leads to respiratory failure which then might even lead to a heart attack,” he said. “If the person ends up dying, those three things should be listed as contributing causes of death. It doesn’t mean that just because COVID-19 wasn’t the only cause of death that was listed, that COVID-19 wasn’t what lead to that death.”