Review of death records results in 67 additions to Delaware's coronavirus death count
Here are some of the top stories we're following for Tuesday, June 23, 2020. Wochit
A review of death certifications resulted in the state adding 67 previously unreported deaths to its coronavirus count Tuesday, bringing the state's total to more than 500.
"DPH epidemiologists have identified 67 additional COVID-19 deaths dating back to April 2020 that were not previously reported to DPH through standard reporting procedures, but should be classified as confirmed or probable deaths, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention case definition," the Division of Public Health said in a statement.
Of the 67 new deaths added to the state’s total death count, 32 are classified as "confirmed" due to there being a positive lab result, and 35 deaths are classified as "probable," as per the CDC case definition. The state began showing probable and confirmed deaths separately on its coronavirus dashboard about two weeks ago.
About 75% of the new deaths were at a long-term care facility, according to the death records, the DPH said. The agency is "working to communicate the reporting requirements with long-term care facilities and hospitals in the state to ensure full accuracy and transparency."
The tallying error at long-term care facilities continues to make it difficult to see the full extent of the pandemic at nursing homes.
The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency that regulates nursing homes, released data earlier this month about the number of COVID-19 infections and deaths at every nursing home, including among workers.
For some Delaware nursing homes, the data was riddled with significant inaccuracies, The News Journal reported last week.
Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Delaware Division of Public Health, said the agency "learned of another state that identified that they were missing information" regarding COVID-19 deaths and decided to conduct its own review.
DPH's epidemiology team shared its COVID-19 death data with DPH’s Bureau of Health and Vital Statistics. The bureau’s staff "performed a review of the death certifications in the Delaware Vital Events Registration System that list either COVID-19, or SARS CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) as a cause of death or a significant condition contributing to death."
The purpose of the review, DPH said, "was to ensure that DPH is accurately capturing the total number of COVID-19 related deaths based on both epidemiology surveillance and death certificate data."
The comparison identified the following, according to DPH:
- 32 people who were already identified as a confirmed COVID-19 cases in the epidemiological surveillance system, but for which DPH did not receive a subsequent report of the person’s death.
- 26 people who did not have a record of a lab result for COVID-19 in the surveillance system.
- Nine people who had previously tested negative for COVID-19, but whose death certificate subsequently listed COVID-19 or SARS CoV-2 as a cause of, or a significant condition contributing to, death.
“These are not new deaths," Rattay said. "These are deaths that occurred since the very beginning of the pandemic.”
The news came on a day when the state's hospitalization numbers continued a modest climb. There are now 91 people hospitalized, up from 75 on June 18. Fifteen people are listed as "critically ill."
"It’s a little bit concerning," Gov. John Carney said at his latest coronavirus press briefing. "We’re going to keep our eye on that number. But we're still comfortably below our ability and hospital capacity to treat COVID-19."
Delaware added 27 additional positive cases, bringing the total to 10,847 since the start of the pandemic. In addition to the 67 deaths from the data review, two new deaths were reported, a 72-year-old and an 85-year-old. One was in a long-term care facility.
Carney and Rattay pointed to senior week and other beach activities as links to recent positive cases, with Rattay listing cases that occurred in rental units at the beaches. With 2,898 positive cases, the 18-to-34 age group has the largest share of cases in the state.
There have been no known links to positive cases resulting from recent protests, Rattay said, due to the fact that they were largely outdoors and most people wore masks.
Carney said he was at the beaches recently to "look at the beach, boardwalk and restaurants."
"Traffic was heavy and I understand it continues to be," he said. "While that's a good thing, it's also concerning if people aren't following the public health guidance.
"This is not the time to let our guard down, not the time to be complacent."
Rattay said DPH and Division of Small Business are working together on an "enhanced enforcement strategy" regarding the use of masks around the state.
As of Tuesday, the number of Delawareans listed as "recovered" is 6,554. The state said 86,689 tests have come back negative.
Delaware is in phase two of its reopening, and many restrictions have been lifted, including the expansion of youth sports. Carney said some leagues were following the guidance better than others.
"We're going to do a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking on that," Carney said.
"We want to go forward, not backward."
Contact Jeff Neiburg at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Jeff_Neiburg.