Coronavirus-related deaths in Washington state likely being underreported, officials say

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Deaths linked to the novel coronavirus are likely being underreported in Washington, say health officials in the Evergreen State.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, officials with the Washington State Department of Health expressed difficulty in adequately tracking the number of COVID-19-related deaths.

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“There are a number of nuances to the data that we report and often it is very difficult – especially quickly – to make an assessment on the cause of death,” Dr. Katie Hutchison, the health statistics manager for the Washington State Department of Health, said, according to KOMO News. 

“We suspect that we are actually more likely to be undercounting deaths than overcounting them,” Hutchison added.

As of Friday, the state had more than 18,000 cases of the novel virus, with just over 1,000 COVID-19-related deaths. However, about 20 to 30 additional deaths in the state that are listed from other causes, such as cancer or Alzheimer’s disease, and are now being investigated for a possible link to the novel virus, Hutchinson said.

Additionally, also not currently included in the state’s COVID-19 death count are roughly 3,000 deaths “where the person’s death certificate indicated symptoms similar to COVID-19, but it’s not clear if COVID-19 actually played a role in the person’s death,” Hutchinson said, as per the news outlet.

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“Currently, we’re reporting just over 1,000 deaths, I would say that we currently have about a 3 percent variance on that. So, if we were to take our 30 deaths that are questionable – that we have about a 3 percent variance on that. And that is really quite excellent – considering how death certificates are processed,” she added.

Speculation that coronavirus-related deaths are possibly being underreported in the state falls in line with similar concerns in other areas of the country. Earlier this month, for instance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the coronavirus-associated death count in New York City may be much higher than previously reported, with some 5,000 deaths possibly missing from official numbers.

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