Fewer COVID-19 deaths reported in Colorado after health department changes fatality categorization

Coronavirus

DENVER (KDVR) — Nearly 300 fewer people have died directly from COVID-19 in Colorado than originally reported, after the Colorado Department of Health and Environment changed the death statistics Friday.

CDPHE now reports that as of May 9, 878 people had died “due to” COVID-19 and 1,150 people have died “among” COVID-19 cases.

“We have been reporting at the state, deaths among people who had COVID-19 at the time of death and the cause of that death may or may not have been COVID-19,” Dr. Eric France, CDPHE’s chief medical officer said Friday.

“We started to hear stories about ‘are these correct or are these incorrect?'” France said.

One of those stories came from Montezuma County this week. The county coroner said a man who had COVID -19 died from “ethanol toxicity” – basically, alcohol poisoning. The coroner said the state, however, classified the death as coronavirus-related.

France also said the death discrepancy was in part because of how the state reports statistics to the federal National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System.

“Having these two systems in place has potentially created some confusion and we apologize for that,” said Dr. Rachel Herlihy, state epidemiologist.

Additionally, the state “emphasized that it does not unilaterally change information on death certificates and does not question or try to change a physician’s diagnosis or causes-of-death determination.”

Gov. Jared Polis’s office released the following statement Friday evening in regard to the confusion and changes:

“The Governor applauds efforts to ensure that we are as transparent as possible with our reporting and therefore fully supports efforts by CDPHE to specify how many deaths are specifically due to COVID-19 and not just specific to CDC guidelines that include people who died with Coronavirus but not necessarily from it. What we are seeing today is a reflection of that. It’s important to note that number of deaths due to COVID-19 includes data through May 9 and does not reflect cases since then. State epidemiologists believe that once the data is up to date then the number will, unfortunately, be higher.”

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