CDC health experts are warning the number of people dead in relation to the pandemic is likely an additional 25% to the deaths directly related to the coronavirus alone. It’s sparking a debate in the state about what is considered a death from COVID-19.
“This problem is even bigger than what we see,” said Dr. Tali Elfassy, an assistant professor at the Department of Medicine at the University of Miami.
In Florida, we only see clear-cut, official COVID-19-related deaths as determined by medical examiners.
“It’s up to that person’s discretion on that death certificate,” said Dr. Troy Quast, a professor of Health economics at USF. “Do they think COVID was a contributing factor?”
“What’s not captured in this measure are potentially missed recorded deaths and other deaths that may not be directly attributable to COVID,” Elfassy said.
In other words, fear due to the pandemic is killing more people than what the numbers say.
It could be people who died are afraid to go to the hospital and then died as a result of not seeking care. It could be someone who overdosed after losing a job because of the economic impacts of the pandemic. It could be someone who died of COVID-19 but chose to never get tested for the virus.
“What the CDC came out and said is that, in the United States, and this is not the entire year, this is basically since the end of January until mid-October, we had 300,000 people approximately that died,” said Dr. Jason Salemi, an associate professor of epidemiology at USF. “Another way of saying it is they should’ve still been alive.”
Florida’s surgeon general announced the Florida Department of Health will be conducting a “more thorough” review of all fatalities reported to the state. He didn’t provide details on how or when that will happen, but explained it is aimed at ensuring accuracy for COVID-19 death records.
Knowing what deaths are related to COVID-19 can help keep people alive.
“If we find that a lot of the excess deaths are due to mental health issues, maybe that’s a signal, ‘Hey, we really need to direct our attention to this area of research or the specific issue,” Elfassy said.