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COVID-19 deaths underreported in Arizona, state adds 35 more

Coronavirus deaths worldwide surpasses 200,000
Posted at 10:24 AM, May 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-08 22:18:08-04

PHOENIX — COVID-19 deaths have been underreported in Arizona, as state health officials have added more than two dozen more deaths.

Arizona’s top public health official said in a blog post that 35 of the new 67 new deaths reported on Friday are because they are looking at death certificates as far back as the week of April 12.

According to Dr. Cara Christ, “the NCHS (National Center for Health Statistic) guidance provides direction to death certifiers on proper cause-of-death certification for cases where confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infection resulted in death, which will help physicians report COVID-19 related deaths in a timely, consistent, and accurate manner.”

The state says that they implemented the use of death certificate surveillance on May 1.

“This makes our count of COVID-19 deaths more complete and accurate than relying on the public health case investigation alone,” Dr. Christ wrote.

The dates will not be reflected on one day, but will be reflected on the date of a death, “this means there won’t be one spike of deaths on a single day, which allows for a more accurate picture of when COVID-19 related deaths truly occurred in Arizona and maintains consistency in the way the death data on the dashboard can be interpreted.”

A spokesperson for Arizona Department of Health Services later told ABC15 that AZDHS is going through death records by relooking at an internal database.

“Confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases in MEDSIS are matched to the death database on a daily basis to identify whether any cases have died and their death status is updated in the surveillance system as needed,” a spokesperson wrote by email.

The health department went on to say that they don’t feel numbers are under reported. "We have been consistently reporting known COVID-related deaths. As our federal partners such as the National Center for Health Statistics have updated guidance for identifying deaths, we have updated and enhanced our processes to match," a spokesperson said.

The state says the guidelines through the National Center for Health Statistics changed their guidance on April 12, and that’s why the majority of new deaths had a date of April 12 onward.

It’s unclear though if the state will go through records as far back as January or not.

“This death certificate matching process allows public health to identify more deaths than just relying on identifying deaths from case investigations alone,” a spokesperson said.