Illinois Director of Public Health addresses potential inflation, underrepresentation of COVID-19 death toll
May 12, 2020
Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) director Dr. Ngozi Ezike addressed rumors that Illinois’ coronavirus COVID-19 death toll is artificially inflated.
“I know some people have had concerns about the number of COVID-19 deaths that have been reported,” said Ezike. “Some are concerned that the numbers are inflated, others think that the numbers reflect an underreporting.”
According to Ezike, Illinois only reports deaths accompanied by a confirmed laboratory report. However, the Harvard College and University of California at San Diego alumna also expressed concern that insufficient standards and unavailable testing during the early stages of reporting may have resulted in underreporting deaths related to COVID-19.
“As we learn more about the disease, there may have been less typical presentation of COVID-19 that were not appropriately attributed to COVID because there wasn’t a test done because the suspicion was not there,” said Ezike.
However, the Illinois Department of Public Health is actively attempting to retroactively remove deaths it believes were wrongly attributed to COVID-19. According to Ezike, individuals who perished due to other circumstances, such as gun shot wounds or automobile accidents, may have erroneously been counted among the COVID-19 death toll.
“Some additional deaths that happened with someone who happened to be COVID-positive, but the COVID section had nothing to do with the deaths,” said Ezike. “We are, at IDPH, trying to remove those obvious cases where the COVID diagnosis was not the reason for the cause of death.”
Nevertheless, health experts caution dismissing official accounts due to overlapping ailments. Ezike states that the emergence of COVID-19 potentially contributes to the acceleration and exacerbation of pre-existing conditions, such as cancer or kidney failure.
“In the case where someone was elderly or battling cancer, it is obviously less clear that the COVID-19 disease associated with the coronavirus didn’t actually play a part in hastening the death, so those deaths do stand,” said Ezike.
After reporting an additional 144 deaths on Tuesday, Illinois’ total COVID-19 death count climbed to 3,601. COVID-19 resulted in death in 4.3% of all cases confirmed across Illinois.
Read more about Illinois’ COVID-19 response: