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Here’s a little clarity on confusing CDC report

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) created confusion recently here and across the country.

CDC’s weekly Provisional Death Counts for Coronavirus Disease 2019 report released Aug. 26, 2020 showed COVID-19 was the only cause on 6% of death certificates.

The CDC didn’t mention the other 94% of people who died had COVID-19 and other contributing conditions. They died from COVID-19 and, on average, 2.6 contributing conditions listed on death certificates.

Multiple contributors to a person’s cause of death is not unique to COVID-19 and assigning a cause on a death certificate is never straightforward. It also reflects the usual way health providers complete all death certificates for any cause of death. Certifying health providers list the immediate cause of death, followed by contributing causes.

Multiple causes of death is the norm.

Many viruses—including human coronavirus, which causes COVID-19—can cause serious health conditions which may result in death:

  • Pneumonia.
  • Hypoxia (low blood oxygen).
  • Septicemia (serious blood infection).

These illnesses are more common, according to the CDC, in individuals with underlying health problems, including:

  • Heart disease.
  • Lung disease.
  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus.
  • Weakened immune systems.
  • Obesity.
  • Old age.

CDC instructions for the cause-of-death section of a death certificate includes 2 parts. Part 1 lists the chain of events (diseases, injuries, or complications) directly causing the death. An immediate cause and three contributing causes are not uncommon. Part 2 includes significant or underlying conditions contributing to the death but not reported in part 1.

We review every death certificate for all people in Pierce County who had a COVID-19 positive test. We double check causes of death for each person to report those dying because of the virus and not those dying with the virus.

If it’s not clear that COVID-19 was the cause of death, we follow up with the physician or medical examiner before including the person in official reports. As of Sept. 1, 6,725 people tested positive for COVID-19 in Pierce County and 150 deaths have COVID-19 as a cause.

Throughout the pandemic, we work hard to bring you the most reliable, accurate, local information as quickly as possible. We continually monitor the spread of diseases like COVID-19 that threaten the health of our community.

People in all age groups have died because of this disease. It’s up to all of us to do our part to stop its spread.

Learn more about COVID-19 at

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