After a state representative and a rural county coroner raised questions about the way Colorado is reporting COVID-19 deaths, the Colorado Department of Health and Environment said it changed its practices this past Friday. Nearly 300 fewer people have died from COVID-19 in Colorado than originally reported as a result.
Colorado reported its first coronavirus death on March 13, but its method of counting coronavirus deaths as anyone who died while infected came under scrutiny Thursday when Montezuma County Coroner George Deavers disputed the state’s inclusion of a May 4 death in his southwestern Colorado county among the state’s death toll, 9News KUSA reported.
“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 may not have been COVID-19,” Dr. Eric France, CDPHE’s chief medical officer said.
CDPHE now reports that as of May 9, 878 people had died “due to” COVID-19 and 1,150 people have died “among” COVID-19 cases.
One of those stories came from Montezuma County, reported KWGN-TV. The county coroner said a man who had COVID -19 died from “ethanol toxicity” – basically, alcohol poisoning. The coroner said the state, however, classified the death as coronavirus-related.
Gov. Jared Polis’s office released the following statement Friday evening in regard to 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. It’s important to note that number of deaths due to COVID-19 includes data through May 9 and does not reflect cases since then. State epidemiologists believe that once the data is up to date then the number will, unfortunately, be higher.”