We had the opportunity to review death certificates for some of Florida’s recent COVID-19 deaths, and we can tell you definitively that Florida is counting deaths that were not directly caused by COVID-19.
Public health agencies have a goal of tracking the spread of a reportable disease, and for that reason, guidance was issued in March that any person who tested positive for COVID-19 should be counted as a COVID-19 death. However, the death count is now prominently featured in newscasts and used as a talking point to claim that some governments aren’t “doing enough” to stop the spread of COVID-19. COVID-19 metrics, including the number of reported deaths, are increasingly cited by governments as a reason to write public health recommendations into law.
A change in CDC guidance published on March 24, 2020 (COVID-19 Alert No.2) encouraged doctors to include COVID-19 in PART 1 “for all decedents where the disease caused or is assumed to have caused or contributed to death.” This was reinforced on April 5 (COVID-19 2020 Interim Case Definition), when the CDC said any death with COVID-19 on the death certificate is counted as a COVID-19 death, even if it was just presumed and had no confirming laboratory or clinical validation. In other words, the CDC guidance explicitly does not distinguish between deaths from COVID-19 and deaths withCOVID-19.
This is contrary to World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, which say to count only deaths “resulting from a clinically compatible illness, in a probable or confirmed COVID-19 case, unless there is a clear alternative cause of death that cannot be related to COVID disease (e.g. trauma). There should be no period of complete recovery from COVID-19 between illness and death. A death due to COVID-19 may not be attributed to another disease (e.g. cancer).”
When governments realized death tolls were too low, they revamped the way they counted them
Weeks after the virus hit Italy last year, doctors, funeral homes and officials realized that government Covid-19 death tolls were too low and many victims weren’t getting included. Informal tallies quickly revealed that thousands of deaths most likely caused by the virus had been omitted. Limited testing left the number of infections unknown, and many people had died outside hospitals, which were the initial source of fatality figures.
Italy’s statistical agency, Istat, scrambled to assemble more reliable information, collecting data from towns and cities faster than ever before. In May, it revealed what people at the front lines had suspected: a 39% jump in nationwide deaths between Feb. 21 and March 31 compared with previous years.
“Normally, they [the data] would have arrived six months later,” said Istat President Gian Carlo Blangiardo in May. “We made an extraordinary effort.”
Washington State’s COVID death numbers could be inflated as much as twenty percent according to a new study by the Freedom Foundation, based on an analysis of death certificates.
In May, The Freedom Foundation, an Olympia based think tank, released a report which revealed that the Washington Department of Health was recording every death in which the deceased previously tested positive for the virus as a COVID death. At the time, the Freedom Foundation estimated that COVID deaths in the state were being inflated by as much as thirteen percent by deaths from other causes including even gun shots victims. After a review of the death certificates, that number could now be as high as twenty percent of all COVID deaths in Washington through September.
Two Minnesota state lawmakers are calling for an audit of death certificates that were attributed to the coronavirus, saying COVID-19 deaths could have been inflated by 40%.
State Rep. Mary Franson and state Sen. Scott Jensen released a video last week revealing that after reviewing thousands of death certificates in the state, 40% did not have COVID-19 as the underlying cause of death.
Franson and Jensen noted in their video that while the deaths attributed to the virus appear inflated, this does not mean the virus should be treated without caution.
“The COVID-19 disease is real. There is no question,” Jensen said.