Alabama should be prepared to see a sudden rise in the number of COVID-19 deaths reported by state health officials, said Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Mark Wilson, speaking in a television interview April 22 with U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell.
“You’ll see a bump in those” reported fatalities, said Wilson, because state health officials are changing the way they assess and count COVID-19 deaths.
Rather than reporting only deaths that have been confirmed to have been caused by COVID-19, all deaths of individuals who have been diagnosed as infected by the virus will be assumed to have died because of the virus.
“What we have been doing is trying to be very precise about that and doing a death review to see if a person who died with it died of it,” said Wilson. “And there’s a distinction there. It’s real easy to think about a situation where your have somebody who tested positive and then died in a car accident, and that would obviously be somebody who died with it but not of it. So there were reported cases and then a lower number that were the actual confirmed cases. But now we’ve decided to go back to just reporting all the people who died with it.”
Wilson did not say what directives or guidelines triggered the state’s decision to change its standard of practice, except to say, “This is in line with what most other sates are doing.”
“You can criticize that for not being very accurate, but that’s just to help standardize it, so that we’re comparing apples to apples across the country.”
Wilson did not say how much of a rise there will be in Alabama’s COVID-19 death count but did say, “So that’s the reason you may see a sudden increase in deaths. Just be aware that part of that is an artifact from that reporting.”