Pennsylvania COVID-19 data discrepancies explained

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SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – Although Pennsylvania’s total coronavirus case count continued to rise Thursday, the state’s total death count decreased by more than 200, leaving many left wondering what happened to those reported deaths.

Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine offered some clarity Thursday during the Department of Health’s daily coronavirus update. However, local county coroners are confused by the discrepancies.

Lackawanna County Coroner Tim Rowland, says “we are reporting as of Thursday morning 63 deaths in Lackawanna County.”

But, as of Thursday the Pennsylvania Department of Health is only reporting 58 deaths in Lackawanna County.

Discrepancies of COVID-19 deaths have also been detected in Lycoming County. The Lycoming County Coroner, Chuck Kiessling, says “when two people are allegedly deceased in Lycoming County earlier in the week and now today the numbers disappeared there’s obviously a problem with the reporting mechanism. I can’t speak to that that’s the Department of Health.”

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notified state health leaders they could begin including probable cases in the counts they report.

Secretary of Health, Dr. Rachel Levine explains ,”but we realize this category can be confusing since it does change over time.”

Wednesday, the Department of Health reported a total of 1,622 deaths and Thursday, the states total death toll was reported as 1,394 deaths.

“These cases were previously reported as probable, but further review has determined we needed more information before we can attribute them to a death related to COVID-19,” adds Levine.

County Coroners in Northeastern Pennsylvania react Thursday saying they aren’t sure where the report of probable COVID-19 deaths are coming from

“I have no idea where they’re getting the data from. I have no idea where they’re collecting the data,” says Rowland.

Kiessling adds, “these deaths should be reported to the coroner’s offices so we have these on file and we’re able to investigate especially when questions come up about contacts with that deceased person.”

County coroners stress to open the counties back up, the state needs accurate numbers.

“We want an accurate count of what the COVID-19 cases and COVID-19 deaths actually are before they would even consider opening up counties,” Rowland.

Dr. Levine says, “those data-driven decisions will be made based on confirmed cases only.”

She adds some probable deaths have been removed from the total count because more information is needed before they can be attributed to a death related to COVID-19.

Confirmed case counts are not impacted and probable cases make up less than two percent of Pennsylvania’s total cases. Levine says.

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