The Texas Department of State Health Services has admitted it overcounted deaths caused by coronavirus disease-19, or COVID-19, by 225 last week and has changed its procedures to use death certificates to calculate fatalities for the flu-like affliction more accurately.
The new procedures, however, have some critics charging that also could lead to inflated numbers because they claim hospitals are being incentivized to list COVID-19 as the cause of death.
The Texas DSHS announced in a Twitter post Thursday an "automation error caused 225 fatalities to be included even though COVID-19 was not listed as a direct cause of death on the death certificate."
It caught the error via a "manual quality check" Wednesday and corrected the death toll for Thursday's update on the DSHS website.
Texas began using death certificates to calculate COVID-19 deaths as of July 27. According to the DSHS website, Texas has had 6,837 people die from the disease as of late afternoon Monday. Previously, Texas had been counting deaths through reporting from local or regional health departments.
Worldometers.info lists the state's death toll as 7,341, sixth-most in the country. It lists eight states with more than 7,000 deaths, including Texas.
Texas' number of new daily infections has been trending lower on a seven-day moving average since reaching a peak of 10,136 on July 15 to just above 8,000.
The discrepancy in death tolls has led some to believe some numbers are inflated. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., last Friday during a hearing of the House Oversight and Reform Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, referred to "perverse incentives" of hospitals receiving more funding for reporting COVID-related deaths. He did not say who was paying the bonuses.
"I think you're correct in that we've seen this in other disease processes, too," the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Robert Redfield said in response. "Really, in the HIV epidemic, somebody may have a heart attack but also have HIV — the hospital would prefer the (classification) for HIV because there's greater reimbursement."
A Yale study in early July said the U.S. death toll was a "substantial undercount" while White House task force member Dr. Deborah Birx suggested in May the CDC's death county was 25% high.
Additionally, anecdotal reports have shown some deaths have occurred where individuals were infected with COVID but actually died of gunshot wounds, falls, Parkinson's disease, and motorcycle accidents.
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