Doctors work to debunk myth that coronavirus death tolls are a hoax

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – As of Monday, the State Health Department is reporting that there has been 51 COVID-19 related deaths in Oklahoma. 

Despite that number being reported by health officials, there’s a growing trend on social media that accuses doctors of saying all deaths are related to the virus to make that official number higher than it should be.  

“I’ve heard of people wondering if COVID-19 is being reported as the cause of death,” Dr. Rachel Franklin with OU Med said.  “All I can really tell you is the way causes of death are reported.”

There have been memes and other social media posts claiming the numbers are being exaggerated. 

One post saying they were told all “drug overdoses, heart attacks, and other deaths” will be classified as COVID-19. 

Healthcare officials say that couldn’t be further from the truth.  

“We are required by law, every single one of us and we can lose our licenses if we do it incorrectly,” Dr. Franklin said. “We are required by law to list number one what we actually think the cause of death was.”

In other words, OU Med says COVID-19 will only be listed as a cause of death it it actually caused a person’s death.  

“Was it pneumonia? Was it a heart attack? What was it? After that there can be some lines for associated conditions or potentially related conditions,” Dr. Franklin said. “If COVID-19 is number one on that death certificate, that doctor had reason to believe that it was the illness itself, and not something else that killed that individual.”

News 4 also reached out to INTEGRIS Health Care Systems.  INTEGRIS echoed the stance of OU Med sending us this statement,

The deceased patient would have to be confirmed COVID-19 positive to be counted as a COVID death. If a person’s death was caused by a complication due to COVID, their death would also be listed as a COVID-19 death.

The Medical Examiner’s Office told New 4 it will only put COVID-19 on a death certificate if the Department of Health confirms a patient tested positive for the virus, sending News 4 this statement:

The Forensic Pathologists at the Medical Examiner’s office examine patients that fall under our jurisdiction according to O.S. 63 Section 938.  The Forensic Pathologist will determine cause and manner of death through examination, medical records, toxicology, radiology and/or any combination of these. 
If our office receives a patient that meets our jurisdiction AND that is suspected to have COVID-19, we will swab the patient and send the swab to the Oklahoma State Department of Health.  The OSDH will determine if tests will be conducted and provide results, if available, to our office.
If a patient that meets our jurisdiction is determined to be COVID-19 positive, that will be noted on the death certificate.  Forensic Pathologists will not automatically default to this cause of death without the test results. 

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