SOUTHFIELD (WXYZ) — For almost two years now, some people have questioned the counting of deaths due to COVID-19. You may have even noticed on social media how some people have even speculated that anyone who dies for whatever reason is counted as a COVID death.
But, rest assured, if someone who has COVID happens to die in crash, by violence, or suicide, their unfortunate passing would not be counted as COVID even contributing to their death.
"There's not much room for folks to be worried that that accident victim or that overdose is being counted as COVID. It's just not the way the system is set up and it's not the way it works," said Susan Ringler-Cerniglia, spokesperson for the Washtenaw County Health Department.
And while a state review of vital records adds to COVID's death toll, Ringler-Cerniglia said it's much more likely that COVID deaths are being undercounted.
"It's much more likely at the review stage that something would be added because that initial case at the local level, that is what people sometimes refer to as a death with COVID, rather than a death from COVID. That's not going to get thrown into the COVID count, randomly. There's a very thorough and multi level review before anything is reported and entered by us at the local level as a COVID death," she said, describing it as a very careful process.
When it comes to state officials reviewing vital records, a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) said, "Epidemiology Division staff review death certificate information and compare it with COVID-19 cases listed in the Michigan Disease Surveillance System (MDSS)."
And if deaths meet the criteria specified by Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, they are counted as a confirmed or probable COVID-19 death.
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The Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, which is based in Georgia, developed the following criteria in collaboration with the CDC to offer guidance to public health agencies across the country in determining whether infections counted as COVID-19 cases should also be counted as COVID-19-associated deaths."
CRITERIA FOR USE WITH CONFIRMED CASES:
1. The case meets the confirmed COVID-19 surveillance case definition, AND at least ONE of the following criteria is met:
a. A case investigation determined that COVID-19 was the cause of death or contributed to the death.
b. The death certificate indicates COVID-19 or an equivalent term as one of the causes of death, regardless of the time elapsed since specimen collection of the confirmatory laboratory test used to define the case.
c. The death occurred within (and including) 30 days of specimen collection for the confirmatory laboratory test used to define the case and was due to natural causes (e.g., the Manner of Death is coded as “natural” on the death certificate.)
CRITERIA FOR USE WITH PROBABLE CASES:
1. The case meets the probable COVID-19 case definition AND a case investigation determined that COVID-19 was the cause of death or contributed to the death.
2. The case meets the probable COVID-19 surveillance case definition based on presumptive laboratory evidence AND death occurred within (and including) 30 days of specimen collection and was due to natural causes (e.g., the Manner of Death is coded as “natural” on the death certificate.)
3. The case meets the probable COVID-19 surveillance case definition based on epidemiologic linkage and meeting clinical criteria, AND death occurred within (and including) 30 days of symptom onset and was due to natural causes (e.g., the Manner of Death is coded as “natural” on the death certificate.)
4. The case meets the probable COVID-19 surveillance case definition based only on vital records criteria (i.e. a death certificate that lists COVID-19 disease or SARS-CoV-2 or an equivalent term as an underlying cause of death or a significant condition contributing to death.)