17 CT coronavirus deaths missed due to lag in data
Seventeen people died from the coronavirus before the tests came back, resulting in those deaths not immediately reported as being connected with COVID-19, the state’s medical examiner said.
There were 16 deaths from COVID-19 in a single 24-hour period, Gov. Ned Lamont said Tuesday, but 17 more patients had died in the previous two weeks, deaths that had not been reported along with other coronavirus fatalities.
Dr. James Gill, Connecticut’s chief medical examiner, said in an email that all deaths from COVID-19, either confirmed or suspected, must be reported to his office.
“The vast majority are hospital deaths,” he said. “In several instances, the COVID testing is not back before the person died. Therefore, some of the death certificates were not listing ‘COVID’ on them.”
The state Department of Health uses death certificates to track fatalities related to COVID-19, but hospitals may get test results too late.
“For the suspected deaths, our investigators follow-up on the lab results to see if they are COVID positive,” Gill said. “For some hospitals, it takes days for the testing to be finished.”
This lag in data means that the first death from the coronavirus in Connecticut, reported March 17 in Danbury, may not actually be the first fatality in the state from the disease.
“We have notified physicians that they should include ‘suspected COVID’ on the death certificate in order to ‘flag’ them,” Gill said.
The 91 percent increase in the reported number of deaths from the coronavirus in Connecticut between Monday and Tuesday has not changed the demographic breakdown.
Almost 60 percent of all the deaths from the coronavirus in Connecticut have been patients at least 80 years old, and though the majority of infected patients are middle-aged, death from the disease is far more likely among older adults.
Nearly 20 percent of all coronavirus patients 80 and older have resulted in death.
Dr. Jon Morrow, who retired as chief of pathology at Yale New Haven Hospital in March, said the hospital is testing everyone who dies to see if they’re positive for the coronavirus, but said, “we’re not currently autopsying known COVID deaths. That is not recommended by the CDC.”
Morrow said it’s the responsibility of the patient’s doctor to fill out the death certificate.
“They’re the ones who know the patient,” he said.
“If they come down from the hospital with the death certificate completed, we just pass it onto the funeral directors and that’s where it’s supposed to be signified,” he said.
Determining whether a patient dies of COVID-19 has been “tied down to the availability of testing,” Morrow said. A faster test than is available is needed, he said.
Staff writer Ed Stannard contributed to this report.