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CDC Decreased Total COVID-19 Deaths by Over 70,000

The agency launched its Data Modernization Initiative to try and improve COVID-19 public health data management


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention altered its total number of COVID-19 deaths amid ongoing attempts to manage health and hospital data.

The agency reported its algorithm had inaccurately marked 72,277 death in 26 states as COVID-19-related. This total included 416 pediatric deaths, 24% of the national total.

“On March 15, the data on the CDC’s website was altered due to what, in a footnote, was explained as a ‘coding logic error,’” reports Just the News. “The agency’s updated overall death count due to the coronavirus stands at approximately 969,000. The change was close to 7.5%, which represents a significant difference with the total number hovering so close to one million deaths.”

Additionally, the number of all-time COVID-19 deaths from Americans under the age of 18 fell from 1,755 to 1,339 after the change — a 23.7% decrease.

Data related to COVID-19 has recently gone under revision in multiple states. 

Massachusetts decreased its total COVID-19 deaths by more than 4,000 on March 14. The state’s Department of Public Health updated its definition of a COVID-19 death to include anyone who had been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the last 30 days. The state had previously included anyone who had had the virus within 90 days prior to death in their total. The definition was retroactively applied to all data collected since March 2020.

When they updated their definition of a COVID-19, they shortened the time period to 30 days which resulted in several thousand death being retroactively excluded from the pandemic death total.

Oklahoma’s Department for Health adjusted how it calculated its seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases on March 17 and found a significant decline.

Previously the State Health Department’s seven-day average was based on all positive test results received during the previous seven days, regardless of when the test was done,” reported Tulsa World. “Under the new methodology, only cases where both testing was performed and results were received within that same seven-day period are used to determine the average.”

In a March 16 email, CDC deputy director for Public Health Science and Surveillance Dan Jernigan asked staff to improve how public health data was collected and analyzed. He referred to a letter sent by Director Rochelle Walensky discussing the Data Modernization Initiative — an effort to improve data collection by completing state and federal systems and providing states with $3 billion in funding to hire data management staff.

“The email is the first formal indication that the CDC is taking new steps to remedy the data gaps that have hindered the agency’s Covid-19 response,” reported Politico, who first covered the story. “And it comes amid calls by lawmakers and public health officials that the agency find ways to ensure more accurate data to respond to the next pandemic — information that can easily be shared among hospitals, state health departments and the federal government.”

The CDC currently includes both deaths of people from COVID-19 and the death of those who were positive for the virus at the time of their death in its overall pandemic death totals.

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