Oklahoma State Epidemiologist responds to COVID-19 death discrepancy

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Oklahoma State Epidemiologist Jared Taylor today responded during a new conference after questions arose last week as to why the death toll numbers between the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) differ by the thousands.

“It is complicated,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Jared Taylor. “We understand that, but we’re today announcing that we’re going to look to build a linkage to that CDC National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) death certificate drive information.”

Last week, KFOR reported a difference of 2,561 between the OSDH’s COVID-19 death toll and the CDC’s count.

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.

“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,” said Taylor last week.

Today, Taylor went on to say, “We want to emphasize that this is not a uniquely Oklahoma phenomenon. This is a challenge for all states and all public health systems across the country and honestly across the globe.”

Now, Dr. Taylor says the CDC NCHS death date will now be presented to the public in an effort to show a bigger picture.

He also wanted to emphasize that after the state’s investigations are done, the OSDH and CDC numbers will be a closer match.

“We definitely utilize those death certificates as part of our investigation process and so as Commissioner Frye laid out, we don’t think there’s gonna be a very large difference between those numbers,” said Taylor. “We’ve not strived to be more conservative in our declaration and the idea that we’ve sought to minimize in any form, we’ve sought to be as accurate as possible.”

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