Colorado has updated its coronavirus death toll, saying that 272 fewer people than originally reported have died from COVID-19.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment changed the statistics on Friday. As of Saturday, the agency’s “case data” website said 878 people had died “from COVID-19” and 1,150 people had died “among people with COVID-19.”
Along with the statistics change, the CDPHE said starting May 15, it will report the number of deaths in the two separate categories.
“We have been reporting at the state, deaths among people who had COVID-19 at the time of death and the cause of that death may or not have been COVID-19,” Dr. Eric France, CDPHE’s chief medical officer, told KDVR on Friday.
The discrepancy also came in part because of how the state reports statistics to the federal National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System, according to France.
“Having these two systems in place has potentially created some confusion and we apologize for that,” state epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy said.
The state added that this change “does not unilaterally change information on death certificates and does not question or try to change a physician’s diagnosis or causes-of-death determination.”
The change came after France said they started to hear stories of people asking if the numbers were correct.
In one instance, the Montezuma County coroner said a man who had COVID-19 when he died actually died from “ethanol toxicity” — or alcohol poisoning — and not the disease caused by the coronavirus.
The state, however, had classified the death as coronavirus-related.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis’ office released a statement Friday addressing the confusion and changes.
“The Governor applauds efforts to ensure that we are as transparent as possible with our reporting and therefore fully supports efforts by CDPHE to specify how many deaths are specifically due to COVID-19 and not just specific to CDC guidelines that include people who died with Coronavirus but not necessarily from it. What we are seeing today is a reflection of that,” the statement said.
Colorado is not the only state that has had to change its coronavirus death statistics.
Pennsylvania Health Department officials had included in their count “probable” coronavirus deaths in cases where they believed the virus was the cause of death but did not have confirmation from a positive test result, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Officials removed over 200 probable deaths from their official tally on April 23 in what they said was an effort to be transparent after state coroners pointed to inconsistencies with the state’s death counts and what they had recorded.
“We realize that this category can be confusing, since it does change over time,” Health Secretary Rachel Levine said.
“At times, there are things we need to review, and potentially revisit the way the data is being analyzed,” she added. “And this is one of those times.”