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State adopts new definition for COVID-19 related deaths after i9 investigation

Published: Dec. 8, 2020 at 9:54 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - The Iowa Department of Public Health will adopt a new method of reporting deaths related to Covid-19, which will add more than 150 deaths to the states’ total.

The new definition, which is suggested by the Centers’ for Disease Control, will allow medical professionals to determine if a death was related to the virus.

The old definition counted only those who died after receiving a positive PCR test, which an I9 investigation found ignored people who died with an antigen test. A spokesperson for the Governor’s Office told i9, then, it was reviewing its’ policy.

In some cases, the death totals in some counties decreased because of a clinical judgment made by the health care provider that COVID-19 didn’t cause someone to die, like a car crash.

Kelly Garcia, who is the interim director for the state’s health department, said, at first, the definition only didn’t include a small number of people However, the increased use of antigen testing over time drove the state to make the change.

“That’s when I came in and starting having conversations with local officials, namely local physicians and local health officials, around this spread where we were not picking up in our real-time information we know were the antigen-positive tests,” Garcia said.

Garica said she understands people might be frustrated with the numbers moving around, but said she’s confident these results are accurate.

This is the second dramatic update to the state’s COVID-19 portal in a week. The state added total tests performed in the state compared to individuals tested along with a second positivity rate.

Sarah Anne Willette, who analyzes the state’s COVID-19 data, said the constant changes make her cautious about using the data and erode public trust.

“The problem is there’s been so many problems and issues and fixes and data that they say, ‘oh that’s been a problem for a while now but we didn’t want to tell you guys,’” Willette said. “They’re destroying trust in public health.”

This change also took away other metrics, like deaths by occupation from the public portal. However, the state will continue to keep this data internally. I9 has asked for this data through a public records request in November, which hasn’t been fulfilled.

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