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Death Reporting Issues

By August 20, 2020Commentary

Minnesota’s drop of 17 new deaths reported yesterday prompts this quick post to demonstrate the misperceptions that causes.  I have a fuller chart and table coming soon based on the ongoing comparison of what date of death looks like versus date of report.  The CDC reports deaths by week they occurred. Every weekday they update those numbers by state, by week of death.  The CDC data is based on death certificates they receive from the states, so there is a lag.  But if you go regularly, and I tend to go on Friday afternoon or Saturday, after the full week’s updates are completed, you can see changes in death reporting by when the deaths occurred and when they were reported.  So the last pull I used in my analysis was as of the end of the week of July 31.  Then this past weekend I looked at the data as of August 14.   Here are some examples of how far back the changes go.  For weeks ending in the month of April, on the August 14th pull versus the July 31st one, two coronavirus deaths were added, and one was deleted.  April!  In weeks ending in May, 5 deaths were added. Six deaths were added to June weeks.  A significant number of all deaths added between the two CDC reporting dates were deaths that occurred over a month ago.

The average lag from the state getting a certificate and sending it to the CDC should be a few days at most and then it should only take the CDC a couple of days to process the certificate and get it in the data set.  So what is happening at the state level that we are still counting deaths from April and May?  Does it really take that long for a death certificate to get from the certifying physician to the state?  How many of these early epidemic but recently added deaths are changed death certificates?  Is the state actively hunting to make every possible death a coronavirus death?  Transparency from the state would eliminate suspicions.  What is the big deal about refusing to report this way.   The certificates very plainly say on them the exact date of death.  So why doesn’t the state tell us the actual date of death numbers.  This would be simple.  For example, yesterday, the state could have said:  “17 new deaths from coronavirus were reported to us today.  Two of these deaths occurred on August 16, three occurred on August 14,” on so on, whatever the actual dates are.  How hard would that be?

And it does matter because people think when the state says 17 deaths were reported today, that 17 people died today and we had a big uptick.  They didn’t, and we won’t know how many people died from coronavirus today for a couple of weeks at the earliest, and based on the apparent processing lags, it may be months.

Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • Peter Johan van der Lugt says:

    DPH bureaucrats are not paid to think critically, or be questioned about their reporting

  • Harley says:

    In my mind, I picture a harried, overweight clerk with sweat on his brow, his glasses slid down his nose, a large styrofoam coffee cup, an open container of Tums, several large computer printouts, an overturned calculator, a wrinkled yellow note pad, Post-it Notes on the edges of his computer monitor, a half-eaten Subway sandwich, a full garbage can full of Mountain Dew cans, his Web browser open to CNN, and his iPhone with his cracked screen open to Facebook.

    And a nameplate on desk that says “Director, Data Analytics & Reporting”

  • Patrick says:

    All people used to intuitively know that the best and brightest certainly did not go to work for the govt. Only the bottom of the class end up in government agencies. Usually people who have failed in private enterprise. As a result, I’m left to wonder, “are these people as stupid as they appear?” or “are they actively trying to deceive?”

  • Chuck says:

    Kevin, are you saying the State of Minnesota does not provide any records by the date of death? I agree Com Malcom’s daily report should include the date of death reported along with the county of residence, age and long term care residence.

  • John W Liljegren says:

    In Oregon, the daily record number of reported deaths was July 28 with 14 deaths. The headline in the Health Authority’s daily report says “14 New Deaths.” The news articles clearly imply that’s how many people died the prior day. New record! Disaster is here.

    But the Health Authority’s daily report actually tells us about each person who is included in that report. Only one of the 14 died on the 27th. The other 13 died as far back as July 10.

    How can anyone get a reliable sense of true trends with such garbage?

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