Coronavirus-related deaths in Washington state likely being underreported, officials say

  • Coronavirus-related deaths in Washington state likely being underreported, officials say

Coronavirus-related deaths in Washington state likely being underreported, officials say

The Washington Department of Health held a virtual meeting Thursday with reporters.

Having an accurate death count helps health officials plan for and prevent the disease, said Cathy Wasserman, state epidemiologist for noninfectious conditions. "The conclusions reached by the Freedom Foundation are based on a source of data that is very early in the death reporting, coding and processing sequence for legally registering deaths in WA", Jamie Nixon with the state health department wrote in an email to KIRO Radio, explaining that meant the numbers used in that report were based on data that had not yet been finalized.

Though the state said its current coronavirus death tally includes anyone that dies after testing positive for the illness, it remains unclear how the gunshot victims ended up in the count - where they still remain.

They've also identified about 100 deaths that are not linked to a positive case, but "we can't rule them in or out", Hutchinson said.

"We will be removing them over time from our death count", Hutchinson said.

"Our current dashboard reflects anyone who died, that tested positive for COVID, irrespective of cause of death", she said.

"We do have some deaths that are being reported that are clearly from other causes", Hutchinson said. Because of that, Hutchison said the true death toll may be understated. "Over the course of the outbreak, we have been monitoring and recording the causes of death as we know it".

Currently, fewer than five deaths that are related to five other causes, in this case they're related to gun shot wounds.

Don't miss the latest coronavirus updates from health and government officials in Washington. About five cases involved COVID-positive people whose deaths involved gunshot wounds, she said.

Numerous uncounted deaths may be linked to other illnesses, including influenza, and sorting out the subtle differences takes a considerable effort - especially in those recorded before the coronavirus's spread was widely known. It may take up to a year to get final counts on COVID-19 deaths.

Now, according to Katie Hutchinson, health statistics manager at the Washington DOH, the DOH is "releasing death information within one day of being aware and notified of a death". Almost 10% of Washington's COVID-19 deaths can not be linked "to a positive case" of coronavirus in the state's disease tracking system. "So, if we were to take our 30 deaths that are questionable - that we have about a 3% variance on that".

The rapid onslaught of this coronavirus forced officials to part from their normal process of counting deaths, Hutchinson said.

But health officials have identified 3,000 deaths dating back to January 1 that involved symptoms like pneumonia or acute respiratory syndrome, which are commonly associated with COVID-19, said Katie Hutchinson, health statistics manager.