Oklahoma doctors speak out against social media claim about exaggerated COVID-19 death toll

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Health officials are speaking out against a social media post that claims the death toll related to COVID-19 is exaggerated.

As of Monday, the Oklahoma State Health Department is reporting that there have been 51 COVID-19 related deaths in Oklahoma. 

Despite the 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 Medicine, said.  “All I can really tell you is the 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 Medicine says COVID-19 will only be listed as a cause of death if 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.”

Officials with INTEGRIS Health say a deceased patient would have to be confirmed COVID-19 positive in order to be counted as a COVID-19 death. They say if a patient’s death was caused by complications due to the virus, their cause of death would be listed at COVID-19.

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