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Tags: Michigan | death toll | testing

Michigan Coronavirus-Related Deaths Likely Undercounted

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By    |   Thursday, 21 May 2020 01:49 PM EDT

The number of people who died from the coronavirus in Michigan is likely much higher than what the state has reported, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The newspaper looked at death certificates and determined that hundreds of fatalities could have links to COVID-19. 

Michigan’s death certificate data shows that more than 13,000 people died in the state from March 15 through April 18, compared with an average of about 9,300 deaths yearly during the same five-week period over the previous six years. 

Of the reported deaths, about two-thirds are related to coronavirus. But more could be tied to the virus that were not reported because of a lack of testing. 

The state’s death certificate data shows a significant spike in deaths near Detroit. Deaths in three counties in that area were up 80% in the five-week period, compared with recent averages. But more than 900 cases, about a third of certificates from that increase, don’t list coronavirus as an underlying or related cause of death.

In Macomb County, made up of Detroit-area suburbs, Medical Examiner Daniel Spitz told the Wall Street Journal that 842 overall deaths were reported to his office in April this year, an increase of about 370 from last April. 

“These increases in numbers were not because we had a lot of homicides, a lot of suicides, a lot of drug overdoses,” Dr. Spitz said. “What’s the difference between April ’19 and April ’20? COVID-19 is the obvious choice.”

And while it is possible in some places that COVID-19 deaths are overcounted, including cases where infections are found in people who die from unrelated reasons, the Michigan data suggests undercounting. 

Dr. Aubree Gordon, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan, said without full testing in nursing homes, underlying problems caused by the virus could easily be mistaken for preexisting conditions.

Michigan Health and Human Services Department spokeswoman Lynn Sutfin said it is possible a doctor may not flag a death as COVID-19 related if there is no test available. 

“It is entirely possible that, in the absence of widespread testing, a physician may be unaware whether COVID-19 played a role in the death,” Sutfin said in an email. 

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The number of people who died from the coronavirus in Michigan is likely much higher than what the state has reported, the Wall Street Journal reports.The newspaper looked at death certificates and determined that hundreds of fatalities could have links to COVID-19....
Michigan, death toll, testing
364
2020-49-21
Thursday, 21 May 2020 01:49 PM
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