The state of Massachusetts has introduced new guidelines on counting COVID deaths, thereby reducing the actual count by the thousands.
Massachusetts has adopted new criteria for determining COVID deaths, causing the state to reduce its COVID death count by up to 3,700. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health announced on Thursday that beginning Monday, March 14, the state will update its criteria in determining COVID death count "to align with guidance from the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists."
The Daily Wire reported that under the previous criteria used to determine the COVID death count in the state, the definition of COVID death applied not only to those who had COVID listed as a cause of death on their birth certificate, but those who had COVID within the last 60 days of their death but did not have COVID listed as a cause of death on their birth certificate. Now, Massachusetts has redefined COVID deaths to be attributed to a diagnosis timeline of just 30 days instead of the previous 60.
Now, Massachusetts' new criteria will retroactively affect all deaths in the state since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020. The state's Department of Public Health admitted in a statement that their previous process of determining the COVID death count was "overly broad and led to an overcounting of COVID-19-associated deaths."
"As a result, 4,081 deaths in Massachusetts that were previously counted as associated with COVID will be removed," the health department explained. The decrease in the COVID death count is about 3,700 as the 400 new deaths that were not previously counted as a COVID death will be added to the total. These new COVID deaths were identified after their medical records were manually matched with death certificates.
"We are adopting the new definition because we support the need to standardize the way COVID-19-associated deaths are counted," state epidemiologist Dr. Catherine Brown explained. She added that before the new criteria on COVID death count, states across America did not have a "nationally recommended definition for COVID-19 deaths" and had used their own processes and definitions to count such COVID-related deaths.
Dr. Brown explained further that in Massachusetts, the state had a "broader" definition of COVID deaths versus other states. She remarked that following a "deep dive" into the state's data and a review of thousands of death certificates, health authorities in the state recognized the need for an updated definition that would provide "a truer picture of mortality associated with COVID-19."
The true COVID death count has long been disputed by scientists and health authorities. Last week, Nature reported that the number of people who died because of COVID "could be roughly three times higher than official figures suggest," according to a new analysis published on The Lancet on March 10. Globally, there have been six million deaths attributed to COVID. But a new analysis claims that the true number of COVID deaths is actually close to 18 million.
In the U.S., however, Dr. William Schaffner of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville that "deaths are, to a degree, imprecise" because "a physician must make a judgment of cause of death," Medical News Today reported.