Coroner: State included a murder-suicide in Grand’s COVID deaths
The Grand County coroner is disputing the number of COVID-19 deaths the state is reporting for the county.
Brenda Bock told county commissioners on Tuesday that the state is reporting two additional COVID-19 deaths in Grand, which she believes should not be included.
The coroner maintains that only one person in the county has died from COVID-19, while two more people have died with it, for a total of three COVID-related deaths in the county. However, the state is reporting five for Grand.
In disputing the numbers, Bock explained that a couple who died of gunshot wounds late last month have been included in the state’s numbers. The state told Bock those deaths are included in the count because the two tested positive for COVID-19 within 30 days before their death.
Bock called the state’s reporting “false and misleading.”
“The two cases were autopsied, and the cause of death was listed as ‘blunt force injuries due to a gunshot wound,’” Bock said of what police determined to be a murder-suicide. “Nowhere did the pathologist say COVID was the cause of death.”
She conceded that while the two extra deaths might not make a big difference to the state, adding them to Grand’s count increases the county’s COVID deaths by 40%. She said she is working with the state to try and get the deaths removed.
“If we want the public to trust and believe the information being released, we need to make sure it is accurate,” Bock said.
Grand County Public Health Director Brene Belew-Ladue explained that state and Centers for Disease Control reporting protocol requires that anyone who tested positive for COVID-19 within 30 days of their death be included in these numbers.
“That might be the process, but it’s not right,” Bock responded. “I strongly stand against that … We do need to stand up and we do need to get these numbers corrected.”
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment counts COVID-19 deaths in two different ways from two separate sources of data — deaths caused by COVID-19 and deaths among people who died with COVID-19.
Most recent numbers report that 3,086 people in Colorado have died because of COVID compared to 3,969 deaths with COVID.
Deaths listed as caused by COVID-19 come from death certificates. These causes of death are determined directly by health care providers and coroners.
Alternatively, deaths for people who died with but not necessarily because of COVID-19 come from epidemiological data. Thus, anyone who died within 30 days after testing positive for COVID is included in the count regardless of official cause of death.
The state explained that it uses the epidemiological data to rapidly classify and count deaths consistently. Information reported from death certificates can lag behind by several weeks.
The state has explained that some deaths may not be counted as due to COVID-19 after review at the state or national level. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said these numbers are expected to be similar once reporting is finished.
The commissioners praised Bock for standing up to get correct information out, emphasizing the importance of accuracy during the pandemic. Grand County’s COVID-19 reporting dashboard does not list the two additional deaths.
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