DOH Adjusting Reporting of COVID-19 Related Deaths

The Department of Health is expanding reporting on COVID-19 deaths to better identify whether COVID-19 caused or contributed to a particular death. The changes being made to reporting will remove non-COVID-19 deaths from the statewide total, and break down the overall data to include more specific categories.

Until now, when a death is reported as a COVID-19 death, it is because the person who passed away also tested positive for COVID-19. However, this method doesn’t just reflect the deaths of people whose deaths were caused by COVID-19; it can include someone who may have died of other causes.

These changes in reporting will take place in two phases. Phase 1 will take place on June 17, and Phase 2 will roll out over the next few weeks.

Phase 1:  Remove deaths where COVID-19 did not contribute to death from our death count. For Phase 1, this will result in seven deaths being removed from our current death count, including two suicides, three homicides, and two overdose deaths. Four of the deaths are from King and three are from Yakima. Additional non-COVID-19 deaths may be removed throughout the course of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Phase 2:  Expand how we report deaths to identify whether we can confirm or rule-out COVID-19 as a contributing cause of death, including identifying probable and suspected deaths. As part of Phase 2, future COVID-19 death classifications will include whether:

  1. COVID-19 contributed to the death (death certificate, testing, and other case information available to confirm);
  2. COVID-19 probably contributed to the death (death certificate information available but testing information not available);
  3. COVID-19 is suspected to have contributed to death (follow-up being conducted prior to ruling out or confirming death); or
  4. COVID-19 did not contribute to the death (examples include homicide, overdose, suicide, car accident, or disease with clear exclusion of COVID-19 illness).

These changes will help DOH deliver an even more accurate count of COVID-19 deaths, as well as offer the additional context of reporting of suspect, probable, and non-COVID-19 related deaths.