By Harry Lee
The Massachusetts Public Health Department announced Thursday that the state would lower its COVID-19 death count by 3,700 due to new measuring criteria being implemented.
The department said in a statement the new death definition is following the guidance (pdf) of the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to create a standardized approach for states to count COVID-19 deaths.
“Our approach proved to be too expansive and led to a significant overcount of deaths in Massachusetts,” Public Health Commissioner Margret Cooke told the State House News Service.
Massachusetts deemed COVID-related fatalities those which have case investigations determining the virus “caused” or “contributed” the death, those having COVID-19 as a cause of death on their death certificate, and those having a COVID-19 diagnosis within 60 days of their death. The updated definition will reduce the timeframe from 60 days to 30 days.
“Massachusetts has applied this new definition retroactively to the start of the pandemic in March 2020. As a result, 4,081 deaths in Massachusetts that were previously counted as associated with COVID will be removed,” the statement read.
About 400 deaths were also not previously recorded but later identified as COVID-related and will be added to the death count. Thus the state’s overall COVID-19 death count will decline by 3,700.
Early in the pandemic, to “avoid the possibility of missing any COVID-associated death,” any death with a positive test for COVID-19 was counted as a COVID-associated death regardless of the length of time between their diagnosis and their death, according to the statement. From April 2021, the department applied a 60-day timeframe from diagnosis to death for anyone diagnosed with COVID-19.
As of March 9, Massachusetts reported 23,732 confirmed and probable COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic. The figure will drop to around 20,000 on March 14, when the department starts using the new criteria.
That’s roughly about 15 percent of the total death toll.
The CDC has been criticized for not distinguishing in its data “from” COVID-19 or “with” COVID-19, in hospitalization and death tolls.
Reducing the timeframe to 30 days still doesn’t rule out deaths “with” COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
According to CDC as of March 10, the nation’s COVID-19 death count was 958,927.
Last year, some studies suggested that the CDC’s COVID-19 hospitalization number might be highly inflated because it hasn’t differentiated hospitalizations “caused by” COVID-19 from hospitalizations “associated with” COVID-19.
Early this year, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul asked hospitals to report COVID-19 hospitalization numbers with a breakout of those hospitalized because of COVID-19 and those who came to the hospital and happened to test positive.
After the first two days of changing the metric, the state reported that about 40 percent of people were hospitalized for non-COVID-related reasons.