MDH: More than 500 COVID-19 deaths in state not properly classified

·2 min read

May 27—More than 500 COVID-19 deaths went uncounted in the state due to improper classification, according to the Maryland Department of Health, which revised its data to reflect the discrepancy Thursday.

MDH officials announced there were "517 previously uncounted confirmed cases with COVID-19 listed as the cause of death" and 21 probable cases. Over the past year, certain medical certifiers failed to classify the deaths properly, according to the department.

As of Thursday afternoon, the MDH COVID-19 tracking website showed there were 19,743 cases counted in Frederick County, including 328 confirmed deaths and 10 "probable deaths." Frederick County's website noted Thursday's increase of 12 deaths reflects the additional deaths from over the past year identified by MDH.

The health department's Vital Statistics Administration (VSA) discovered the error through "maintenance exercises" and learned some medical certifiers "miscoded the cause or probable cause of death," a news release states. VSA is in the process of re-issuing guidance for coding protocols.

"When necessary, our epidemiologists make adjustments to reported health data as information is reviewed, verified, and corrected," MDH Deputy Secretary for Public Health Services Dr. Jinlene Chan said in a prepared statement. "It is important for medical certifiers to closely follow CDC guidance when reporting COVID-19 deaths. This data is critical for the public and the public health community, and our systems and processes are designed to ensure accuracy and transparency in our reporting to the public."

Families who lost a loved one to COVID-19 may be eligible for funding through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for funeral expenses incurred. Details on the program can be found at fema.gov/disasters/coronavirus/economic/funeral-assistance.

Gov. Larry Hogan (R) on Thursday noted the state has exceeded 6 million vaccinations "as [the state's] key health metrics continue to decline."

"We are outpacing the national vaccination rate, and Maryland is reporting 69.1% of adults with at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine," the governor tweeted.

Follow Mary Grace Keller on Twitter: @MaryGraceKeller

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