Are COVID-19 numbers truly accurate? Shelby County Health Department says yes

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — More than 184,000 people have died from COVID-19 across the country.

But according to the CDC, only 9,000 of those deaths were caused by COVID only.

Have questions about the spread of coronavirus? We have an entire section dedicated to coverage of the outbreak. CLICK HERE for more.

“In the state of Tennessee, when we report the number of people who died relative to COVID, that is an accurate number,” said Alisa Haushalter, Shelby County Health Director.

Last week, the CDC sparked confusion across the country when new data showed only about 9,000 of the then about 183,000 COVID deaths were actually from the virus while the majority died of other serious illnesses.

“In many of those cases the person wouldn’t have died if they did not have the COVID infection,” said Dr. Steve Threlkeld, Baptist Hospital Infectious Disease Specialist.

What the CDC data is really saying is that most people who died from COVID-19 also had at least one other condition or comorbidity, like a heart or lung condition, diabetes or high blood pressure.

“In a lot of those cases the idea that someone died from only COVID and nothing else. More likely speaks to someone tired not filling out the death certificate,” Threlkeld said.

Experts said death certificates list all possible conditions that lead to a person’s death, and more than one may be listed.

“On a death certificate it’s really just a matter of what contributed to that death and if COVID is on there,” Threlkeld said. “There may be a few it didn’t contribute to, but it would be the vast minority.”

Local health leaders said doctors issue death certificates and the state medical examiner reviews COVID-related deaths.

“If there is a decision that the individual did not die as a result of COVID or COVID paid a significant factor to the death they actually get removed from the death,” Haushalter said.

Health experts said the update released by the CDC is consistent with what we already know. People with underlying medical conditions are at greater risk for severe illness and death from Covid-19.