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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday updated their coronavirus tracking numbers, leading to confusion on social media about two websites within the organization that show vastly different death tolls.
The CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) website for the coronavirus lists the total deaths from COVID-19 – the disease caused by the virus – as 37,308 in the United States. That’s a much lower number than what has been reported in the media or by other coronavirus trackers. For example, the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus tracker, lists the number of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. at 65,645.
Even more confusing, a separate CDC website – dedicated exclusively to the novel coronavirus – lists the total COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. as 64,283. The NCHS website was updated on May 1, while the CDC’s coronavirus-specific website says it was updated on May 2.
The discrepancy seems to be an issue of how the data relating to deaths was coded at the state level, that is, what the cause of death on a death certificate says. The NCHS website lists 37,308 total deaths from death certificates listing COVID-19 as the cause, which includes COVID-19 as the presumed cause of death. The CDC gives some explanation why the NCHS data may be different from other reported numbers (emphasis original):
Provisional death counts may not match counts from other sources, such as media reports or numbers from county health departments. Our counts often track 1–2 weeks behind other data for a number of reasons: Death certificates take time to be completed. There are many steps involved in completing and submitting a death certificate. Waiting for test results can create additional delays. States report at different rates. Currently, 63% of all U.S. deaths are reported within 10 days of the date of death, but there is significant variation among jurisdictions. It takes extra time to code COVID-19 deaths. While 80% of deaths are electronically processed and coded by NCHS within minutes, most deaths from COVID-19 must be coded manually, which takes an average of 7 days. Other reporting systems use different definitions or methods for counting deaths.
The CDC’s coronavirus website does not include the same explanation, though it does mention state and local public health officials:
CDC does not know the exact number of COVID-19 illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths for a variety of reasons. COVID-19 can cause mild illness, symptoms might not appear immediately, there are delays in reporting and testing, not everyone who is infected gets tested or seeks medical care, and there may be differences in how states and territories confirm numbers in their jurisdictions.
State and local public health departments are now testing and publicly reporting their cases. In the event of a discrepancy between CDC cases and cases reported by state and local public health officials, data reported by states should be considered the most up to date.
The CDC did not immediately return a Daily Wire request for information about the discrepancy. This post will be updated if and when that information is received.
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