While Covid-19 Deaths are declining, raising hopes that the United States is turning a corner as vaccinations continue, and states across the country are steadily finding previously unreported deaths that are causing data confusion.
Problems largely include the systems countries use to try to report Covid-19 data in nearly real time, not deaths being reported more slowly through death certificates. It is these frontline numbers that fuel case dashboards and data trackers, such as the Close Watchers created by Johns Hopkins University, that help policymakers and the public closely monitor pandemic trends.
Ohio reported more than 4,000 additional deaths in February while reconciling its data, and Indiana added about 1,500 cases. Smaller reviews have also recently come from Virginia, Minnesota, and Rhode Island. Authorities in West Virginia said on Thursday that medical providers had not properly reported the state’s Department of Public Health to the 168 deaths.
“Nobody likes surprises, and nobody likes misinformation because that’s what drives decisions,” said Ayn Amjad, a health officer in West Virginia.
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These problems underscore the ways in which Covid-19 can still challenge data reporting systems in the United States Like many countries, the United States is trying to track pandemic events almost as soon as they happen, and a large part of that effort It required speeding up how deaths were reported.
Dr. Amjad said that reporting deaths in West Virginia usually requires waiting several weeks for death certificates to be finalized. But last year the state required medical providers to fill out a one-page report of Covid-19 deaths to create a faster record. Dr. Amjad said that the state discovered the last, lowest number of all deaths from December and January, using death certificates to determine that the 168 death reports were not properly filled out.
She said the reporting issues were at about 70 locations, most of which were hospitals and long-term care facilities. She said the increased spread of Covid-19 virus like the one that struck the United States this winter could slow reporting, but she and Governor Jim Justice both described reporting errors as unacceptable. The United States has seen more than 530,000 Covid-19 deaths, nearly half of them since Thanksgiving, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
The Daily reported on the Covid-19 deaths in the United States
Notes: for all 50 states, capital and U.S. territories, and cruises. Last updated
Source: Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering
On Tuesday, Minnesota health officials said the review found four private labs failed to report lab results, resulting in another 138 deaths. A Ministry of Health spokesperson said these were recorded on death certificates.
Check in Indiana Revealed 1,507 historic deathsState authorities said in early February, mostly from 2020. A spokeswoman for the state health department said death certificates were used to verify those deaths. Soon after, an issue with unresolved death data led to the Ohio Department of Health Found 4,000 unreported Covid-19 deaths.
In Virginia, it was a problem with the system that recently prompted the state to add about 900 deaths. Lillian Beck, a Virginia epidemiologist, said officials there realized that the number of deaths they reported did not appear to follow a rise in cases, and that death certificates helped correct the error. She said, “We realized that something was wrong.”
Monitor the US outbreak
Confirmed cases by state, arranged by the most recent full-day census
The number of confirmed cases per day per 100,000 residents
Note: The trend indicates whether the state has seen an increase or decrease in the total number of cases in the past seven days compared to the previous seven days. Last updated
Sources: Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering. The scalpel; News agency; Census of the United States
Status reforms do not fill these major gaps in what researchers believe is a significant reduction in the number of Covid-19 deaths. This is confirmed by the wide gap between known Covid-19 deaths and excess deaths, or Mortality is above average levels In the last years.
False reporting of Covid-19 deaths was especially likely early in the pandemic, when testing was rare and doctors were filling out death certificates less familiar with the disease, according to public health experts. They’ve also done chalk Some excess deaths to other issues, Such as people who avoid hospitals during health emergencies.
“We’re kind of stuck with this under-reporting, especially at the start of the pandemic,” said Robert Anderson, head of the mortality statistics branch at the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Anderson said matching front-end surveillance data with death certificates could improve the data in both systems, and could sometimes lead to rewriting of testimonials. But he said changing death certificates was not easy. The person who filled out the death certificate – often a doctor – must agree to the record amendment.
“We are seeing some deaths that were not previously Covid that were attributed to Covid when modified, but are a relatively small number,” Anderson said.
Big statewide changes could create at least a temporary and artificial inflation of data that John Hopkins and others coordinate together to show daily trends.
This happened briefly as an accumulation of death data from Indiana and Ohio, before it was outdated, which Johns Hopkins tracks and reflects in its records when possible. There is still an artificially high fatality inflation of 469 deaths in Iowa on December 11, on the contrary, since that state changed the way it reported Covid-19 deaths.
“This is the challenge, and that’s why we need to work on improving our national surveillance,” said Jennifer Nozo, an epidemiologist and senior researcher at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
Write to John Camp at [email protected]
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