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Verifying claims about COVID deaths

We’ve gotten questions about what really constitutes as a COVID death and whether hospitals get paid more for putting COVID on a death certificate. Let's Verify.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — There’s been some confusion over COVID deaths since the CDC published its COVID-19 comorbidity report

It shows 94% of COVID-reported deaths from February to December of 2020 had more than one cause and that only 6% of death certificates listed COVID-19 as the only cause.

THE QUESTION

Are COVID deaths being overestimated in North Carolina?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

   

This is false.

No, COVID deaths are not being overestimated in North Carolina.

WHAT WE FOUND

According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, here in North Carolina, COVID-19 deaths include people who have had a positive molecular (PCR) or antigen test for COVID-19, who died without fully recovering from COVID-19, and who had no alternative cause of death identified.   

In May of 2020, national infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci testified before a Senate committee and said he thought COVID deaths were actually under reported.

Dr. Bregier agrees, saying "From what I have read from the CDC and a lot of other authorities around the world, is we are probably underestimating the number of deaths. That's because some places just don’t test for it. Some people die from what seems to be unusual circumstances, whether it's kidney failure, liver failure, an unusual brain infection, an unusual spinal cord infection, or other things. It may not be appreciated that it’s COVID."

Keep in mind, the CDC's reporting guidance on COVID deaths is broader. It says in most COVID-reported deaths, COVID is likely the underlying cause listed below the immediate cause. That's where the reporting can get tricky.

That brings us to our next question.

THE QUESTION

Do hospitals get more money if a death is coded as a COVID death?

THE SOURCES

  • SC-DHEC’s Assistant State Epidemiologist, Dr. Jane Kelly

THE ANSWER

   

This is false.

No, hospitals do not get more money if a death is coded as a COVID death.

WHAT WE FOUND

In many cases COVID is the contributing, but not immediate cause of death.

According to Dr. Kelly, "Hospitals are paid higher Medicare rates for COVID patients and their treatment."

After a patient dies, it’s then up to the coroner or a medical official to determine the cause of death, not the hospital.

"The hospital itself doesn't determine a cause of death. We are record keepers for death certificates as they're completed and filed by coroners or by medical physicians who certify, who determine whether an individual's cause of death was COVID related or not." says Dr. Kelly.

VERIFY is dedicated to helping the public distinguish between true and false information. The VERIFY team, with help from questions submitted by the audience, tracks the spread of stories or claims that need clarification or correction. Have something you want VERIFIED? Text us at 704-329-3600 or visit /verify.