The official tally of coronavirus deaths in the United States may not be an accurate count of how many people have died from the virus. The actual death toll may be much higher than what is being reported.
According to The New York Times, hospital officials, doctors, public health experts and medical examiners agree the official counts, which currently report more than 9,400 deaths in the United States, do not truly represent how many Americans have died due to the virus.
The New York Times report points to inconsistent protocols, limited resources and varied decision making between states and local counties for the undercount.
Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines for certifying coronavirus deaths. The CDC instructed officials to report deaths where the patient has tested positive or, in an absence of testing, “if the circumstances are compelling within a reasonable degree of certainty.”
Without a uniform system for reporting coronavirus-related deaths and a shortage of tests, health officials say many coronavirus deaths have not been accounted for.
In rural areas, coroners say they don’t have the tests to detect the disease. Doctors believe they may have labeled coronavirus patients they treated in February or early March as influenza or pneumonia patients instead of coronavirus patients.
On Friday, the National Center for Health Statistics, which is part of the CDC, began publishing preliminary estimates of coronavirus deaths. The report will look at the number of death certificates that included Covid-19 as an underlying disease. A memo said that information it reports will have a lag of “1-2 weeks.”
The federal government estimates it will not be able to produce a final tally of coronavirus deaths until 2021. Coronavirus will be in an annual report that outlines the country’s leading causes of death.
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