Latest Updates: 1,215 Coloradans Died With Coronavirus, But Only 878 Died Because Of It | KUNC

Latest Updates: 1,215 Coloradans Died With Coronavirus, But Only 878 Died Because Of It

May 17, 2020

KUNC's newsroom is here to keep you informed with the latest news and updates about the coronavirus in Colorado.

Most recent news briefs are at the top of this page. For more information and answers to frequently asked questions, see our resources page here. For previous weeks' live blogs, click here.

Last updated Sunday, 5/17/2020 at 4:07 p.m.

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1,215 Coloradans Died With Coronavirus, But Only 878 Died Because Of It

Colorado reworked the way it reports Coronavirus deaths. The state hopes to clarify the difference between those who have died because of COVID-19 and those who died from other causes, but had the virus in their systems. 

The difference is primarily about what is the reported cause of death on the person’s death certificate. These determinations are made by a physician.

Until Friday, the state reported one death number that combined both categories. That number still is being used, which was at 1,215 as of Sunday afternoon.

But now, the data also show that only 878 of those deaths were reported as a direct result of the novel coronavirus. 

Colorado’s Department of Health and the Environment said including the number of people who died with (and not just because of) the virus is “required by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and is crucial for public health surveillance, as it provides more information about disease transmission and can help identify risk factors among all deaths across populations.”

“Every single death is tragic, regardless of the circumstances,” Dr. Eric France, chief medical officer at CDPHE, said in a press release Friday. “We know this virus can be deadly and can complicate other serious medical conditions and hasten death. As public health practitioners, we need to look at data that helps us understand disease transmission and protect people.”

Republican State Representative Mark Baisley alleged this week that CDPHE was “falsely inflating the number of deaths due to COVID-19,” in a letter to George Brauchler, Republican district attorney for the 18th Judicial District. He requested an investigation into the department’s Executive Director, Jill Hunsacker Ryan for falsifying death certificates.

Baisley cites an April 17 letter from a senior care center in Centennial, which alleged that CDPHE overruled it’s attending physicians’ listed cause of death for some of its residents to label them as COVID-19 deaths, according to 9News.

In its statement Friday, CDPHE said its COVID-19 death data was reported according to CDC guidelines and is separate from death certificates used in the state’s official death records. It also emphasized that the state does not “unilaterally” alter death records or question a physician’s diagnosis.