More than 9,400 people with the coronavirus have been reported to have died in this country as of this weekend, but hospital officials, doctors, public health experts and medical examiners say that official counts have failed to capture the true number of Americans dying in this pandemic. The undercount is a result of inconsistent protocols, limited resources and a patchwork of decision-making from one state or county to the next.
The problems with getting an accurate count are legion. For instance, the paper noted, an Indianan coroner wanted to know if COVID-19 was responsible for the death of a man in early March, but the county health department would not test the victim.
In New York City, paramedics have stated that a number of patients who died at home were also never tested for the virus, though they appeared to demonstrate signs of the infection.
And in Virginia, a funeral director who prepared the remains of three people was cautioned by health workers that all of them had tested positive for the virus, but just one of the three had the virus denoted on their death certificate as the cause of morbidity.
“Across the United States, even as coronavirus deaths are being recorded in terrifying numbers — many hundreds each day — the true death toll is likely much higher,” the paper reported.
In many rural areas, coroners believe they have coronavirus victims on their hands but don’t have tests to find out for certain. And now, many doctors are coming to believe that deaths they experienced on the job in February and early March — before the virus reached epidemic levels in the U.S. — were probably mislabeled the flu or pneumonia.
“We definitely think there are deaths that we have not accounted for,” Jennifer Nuzzo, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, which studies global health threats and is monitoring the current COVID outbreak, told the Times.
That’s very probable. Each year the CDC only estimates the number of annual flu deaths, and the figures are wide-ranging, according to its reporting website. As of this writing, for instance, the CDC has estimated there have been between 39 million and 55 million flu cases; between 400,000 and 730,000 hospitalizations; and between 24,000 and 63,000 deaths. (Related: Bill Gates REFUSES to recommend nutrition (zinc, vitamin D, vitamin C) and instead focuses entirely on vaccines and police state tracking.)
Speaking of the CDC, the agency only last week issued guidelines for determining COVID deaths in a bid to establish some reporting uniformity. As part of the guidance, the nation’s health agency instructs health care providers to report deaths whenever a patient tests positive for the virus or, if the patient cannot be tested or isn’t tested, “if the circumstances are compelling within a reasonable degree of certainty.”
Critics, however, say that requirement seems extremely broad-based and could actually lead to over-counting of virus deaths. Also, public health experts also say that it can often take years to get an accurate accounting of outbreak illnesses and deaths. And reporting systems are generally strained when pandemics are as large as the coronavirus epidemic, the Times noted.
Nevertheless, without an accurate count, it’s not going to be possible for federal, state and local leaders to make decisions in real time about important mitigation measures such as if or when to lift social-distancing guidelines, allow businesses to reopen and permit people to meet publicly in larger groups, such as going back to work.
If the count is really much higher than we’ve been told or than officials are aware, then that begs the question: Just how long has coronavirus been in the United States?