COVID-19 death discrepancy: OSDH, CDC numbers not matching up

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The reporting of COVID-19 deaths in Oklahoma is causing confusion, as different agencies list different numbers. The medical community and Oklahomans alike are unsure why the numbers between the Oklahoma State Department of Health and the CDC differ by the thousands.

Dr. George Monks, president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, told News 4 that without accuracy, we can’t know exactly how the virus is affecting Oklahoma, which will make learning about the disease that much more difficult for the medical community.

“It’s very confusing and it’s very concerning,” said Dr. Monks.

Dr. Monks is referring to the over 2,500 death discrepancy between OSDH and the CDC.

“We’re talking about the CDC showing 6,881 Oklahoma covid deaths and our state health department is showing 4,320 covid deaths. That’s a difference of 2,561,” said Dr. Monks. “That is a huge difference and one that I’ve not heard a good explanation for.”

OSDH Epidemiologist Dr. Jared Taylor explained the gap in a statement to News 4:

“The difference in death counts is that the CDC values they are citing are derived from death certificates where OSDH counts are derived from people who are first diagnosed as COVID positive, then die, and we do a full investigation. We will reconcile those numbers in early 2021. I would assert that our numbers reflect a rather thorough investigation but it’s possible we may pick up some additional deaths from reviewing death certificate records.”

Dr. Monks said that physicians take the job of filling out death certificates quite seriously.

“We review a patient’s chart before we fill out that death certificate information, and we will only list COVID-19 on the death certificate if they died from COVID-19, if COVID-19 caused their death,” said Dr. Monks.

Dr. Monks went on to say that Oklahoma physicians do not know what criteria OSDH uses to determine if COVID-19 was a contributing factor in a death.

“We’ve yet to hear what their definition of a covid death is,” said Dr. Monks.

Dr. Monks said an investigation may need to be done to ensure the numbers are correct.

“It’s important that we get the COVID-19 deaths right in Oklahoma, because that’s really the true way we find out how covid is impacting our state. So we need to get it right,” said Dr. Monks. “These numbers are so far off we may need an independent audit to try to find out what exactly is going on.”

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