State officials have changed the method for publicly reporting the number of Covid-related deaths in Iowa, using the same system as the National Center for Health Statistics. The change initially added at least 177 deaths to the state count.
Iowa Department of Human Services director Kelly Garcia told reporters during an online news conference that the state is now using a special code number on death certificates indicating Covid was the underlying cause or a contributing factor to the death of an Iowan.
“It is a more fulsome picture of exactly what happened surrounding that death,” she said, “rather than a case investigation which has bits and pieces and is accurate, to the best of our knowledge, but this is really relying on the full medical record.”
Until today, state officials not only required Covid to be cited on a death certificate, but required proof the person had tested positive for the virus using a test that detects the genetic material of Covid. Garcia said there are new types of tests available now, plus the state relies on the judgment of doctors in reporting all other causes of death — using the coding system that now includes a code number for Covid.
“This information will be helpful for national comparison and I believe it will also be helpful when we compare causes of death over the course of the entire 2020 calendar year…In years to come — one year out, five years out, 10 years out — this change will allow us to see an apples to apples comparison,” Garcia said this evening “…Nothing is changing around the way a clinician would do their work, rather we are changing the way we record that information at the state level.”
The state website tracking coronavirus data will be updated every morning with an updated count on Covid-related deaths, according to Garcia.
“This is a change that Iowans can rely on,” Garcia said. “Academics, those who do research in other capacities, from other states, at a national level can also rely on it and that is incredibly important.”
Also tonight, the Iowa Department of Human Services announced the Covid-related death of a resident at one of the six facilities the agency oversees. A department spokesman said the location or day of the death will not be released to protect the identity of the client who died.