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Questions about what constitutes a COVID-19 death linger

Published: Aug. 7, 2020 at 7:43 PM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - As the COVID-19 death toll continues to rise in Texas and across the country, many may still be unsure about what constitutes a COVID-19 death.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says older people and people with underlying health conditions are more likely to experience serious COVID-19 symptoms and be hospitalized for the virus.

That means many people who die from COVID-19 may have other health conditions, but doctors say it is important to report those deaths as COVID-19 deaths.

"While the event that may ultimately cause their death is [an underlying heath issue], we still would attribute that death as primarily related to COVID-19 because it was the inciting event that began this downstream process," said Dr. Tresa McNeal, a physician at Baylor Scott & White.

Texas has revised the way it counts COVID-19 deaths, using the cause of death listed on death certificates and the county of residence of the patient who died.

That has resulted in some discrepancies between state counts and local counts, which aren’t based on the same data.

CDC recommendations say the cause of death of a COVID-19 patient can be listed as COVID-19 "unless there is a clear alternative cause of death that cannot be related to COVID-19 disease."

The CDC adds "there should be no period of complete recovery between the illness and death."

Lawmakers like Minnesota Sen. Scott Jensen have criticized the CDC's recommendations claiming they lead to an inflated death toll.

The statewide death toll rose to more than 8,000 Friday.

In Central Texas the virus has claimed almost 130 lives.

Seven deaths were reported Friday in McLennan County, alone, the highest one-day count in the region so far.

Copyright 2020 KWTX. All rights reserved.

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