California county cuts COVID toll by 25% after finding some deaths ‘clearly not’ caused by virus

California‘s Alameda County has revised its coronavirus death toll, reducing the number of people whose deaths had been attributed to the virus by around 25 percent after adjusting parameters for what was considered a COVID-related death.

Previously, the county was counting people as part of its COVID death toll if they died when infected with the virus – even if they died in an obviously unrelated matter, like in a car accident.

The new guidelines put the county in line with California state guidelines, which don’t count obviously unrelated deaths.

‘Although the COVID-19 pandemic has caused nearly 600,000 deaths in the United States, the vast majority of infections do not result in death, and deaths due to other causes while infected with COVID-19 are not uncommon,’ the county said in a news release, explaining the change.

Alameda County, which includes Oakland and Berkeley in the San Francisco Bay Area, had previously put its death toll from COVID-19 at 1,634.

After reassessing, they announced on Friday that they had reduced that by 441, making the updated tally 1,223. By Sunday, the total was 1,268. 

The reassessment was brought in to bring the county in line with the California Department of Public Health’s guidance on how to classify deaths, reports Fox2.

Alameda County has revised its death toll from COVID-19 after revisiting its data, and finding that some of the deaths attributed to the virus could have been from other causes

Alameda County has revised its death toll from COVID-19 after revisiting its data, and finding that some of the deaths attributed to the virus could have been from other causes

Alameda County has revised its death toll from COVID-19 after revisiting its data, and finding that some of the deaths attributed to the virus could have been from other causes

People in Oakland, Alameda County, line up for their vaccine shots in April. Alameda County's death toll from COVID has reduced by 441, after reassessing the data

People in Oakland, Alameda County, line up for their vaccine shots in April. Alameda County's death toll from COVID has reduced by 441, after reassessing the data

People in Oakland, Alameda County, line up for their vaccine shots in April. Alameda County’s death toll from COVID has reduced by 441, after reassessing the data

The updated total includes only deaths in which COVID-19 was a direct or contributing cause. It also includes cases in which COVID-19 could not be ruled out as a cause.

What the count won’t include is someone who’s died when simply infected with the virus, according to Fox2. 

If someone died in a car crash but tested positive for COVID at the time of the crash, under the county’s previous rules, that person was counted as part of the county’s COVID death total. (They weren’t included in California’s state total – which didn’t use the same parameters.) 

Neetu Balram, a spokesperson for Alameda County Public Health, said that some of the deaths ‘were clearly not caused by COVID.’

‘Obviously our definition was broader than the state’s,’ she said.

She said that the department had always planned to conduct an update ‘when cases and deaths stabilized.’

The alternative causes of death were not provided.

Gavin Newsom, the governor of California, is pictured visiting Ruby Bridges Elementary School in Alameda County in March. Health officials said that they knew revising the death toll would be controversial, but it was important to be accurate

Gavin Newsom, the governor of California, is pictured visiting Ruby Bridges Elementary School in Alameda County in March. Health officials said that they knew revising the death toll would be controversial, but it was important to be accurate

Gavin Newsom, the governor of California, is pictured visiting Ruby Bridges Elementary School in Alameda County in March. Health officials said that they knew revising the death toll would be controversial, but it was important to be accurate

As of Sunday, Alameda County has recorded 1,268 deaths from COVID-19

As of Sunday, Alameda County has recorded 1,268 deaths from COVID-19

As of Sunday, Alameda County has recorded 1,268 deaths from COVID-19

Alameda County's case load has dropped significantly from January, when 12,000 cases a day were being reported. The number is now around 500 a day

Alameda County's case load has dropped significantly from January, when 12,000 cases a day were being reported. The number is now around 500 a day

Alameda County’s case load has dropped significantly from January, when 12,000 cases a day were being reported. The number is now around 500 a day

Oakland and Berkeley, both in a darker shade of blue, were the hardest-hit areas during the pandemic

Oakland and Berkeley, both in a darker shade of blue, were the hardest-hit areas during the pandemic

Oakland and Berkeley, both in a darker shade of blue, were the hardest-hit areas during the pandemic 

‘We knew any change like this would have raised some eyebrows,’ said Nicholas Moss, Alameda County health officer.

‘Nothing about this changes our policy decisions now or during the height of the pandemic.’

Dr Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease expert and senior scholar at Johns Hopkins, said the adjustments were expected but the amount ‘seems high.’

Alameda County has seen one out of every 18 people test positive.

Berkeley and Oakland had the worst-affected zip codes within the county.

Alameda County is currently ranked 37th out of California’s 58 counties in terms of new cases. The region reported 14.4 new cases per 100,000 people over the last seven days.

Plumas County, a sparsely-populated area in the Sierra Nevada mountains, was the worst with 53.5 cases per 100,000 people.

Los Angeles County had 11.9 cases per 100,000 people.

COVID death tolls have been updated in other regions, when different ways of measuring the statistics are ushered in.

CDC director draws a blank when asked how the US will get to Biden’s vaccination goal after daily shots fall to fewer than 1.5 million per day – even though 12 states have given at least 70% of adults one dose 

Twelve U.S. states have administered at least one coronavirus vaccine dose to 70 percent of their adult populations as officials attempt to ramp up the pace of shots.

Nine of the states – Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont – are in the Northeast with just three states, California, Hawaii and New Mexico, in the west.

Vermont and Hawaii currently lead the pack, giving an initial shot to 82.1 percent and 80.7 of residents, respectfully.

At least six states, Delaware, Illinois, Minnesota, New York, Virginia and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia are close to crossing the threshold and are expected to do so within the next week.  

CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky could not answer questions Thursday about how the U.S. would meet this threshold, instead replying that 'every shot in the arm is a win'

CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky could not answer questions Thursday about how the U.S. would meet this threshold, instead replying that 'every shot in the arm is a win'

CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky could not answer questions Thursday about how the U.S. would meet this threshold, instead replying that ‘every shot in the arm is a win’

President Joe Biden has set a goal of giving 70 percent of American adults getting at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose by July 4. However, this has proven difficult with the number of daily vaccinations falling, decreasing from an average of three million per day in April to less than 1.5 million per day currently.

When asked on Thursday how the administration planned to meet Biden’s goal, CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky appeared to draw a blank and didn’t give any specifics.  

According to CDC data, 62.9 percent of all U.S. adults have received at least an initial dose of the inoculation and 51.9 percent are fully vaccinated.

However, this is still short of Biden’s goal of 70 percent and the administration has been trying to motivate more Americans to get vaccinated.

To get the nearly 15 million more Americans to roll up their sleeves, Biden announced incentives including free Anheuser-Busch beer for 200,000 people and even a visit to the White House.

Additionally, pharmacies that have teamed up with the White House will be open for 24 hours on Friday and centers will be offering free childcare for parents 

TODAY host Savannah Guthrie asked Walensky if the current pace of vaccinations is enough to hit the president’s target or if a push is need to increase the daily numbers.

The CDC director appeared to side-step the question, saying that she anticipates the incentives will ‘meet [people] where they are’ by providing people with more information and access to shots.  

‘I think that any singular day’s counts of how many vaccines we’re doing is not necessarily reflective. We’ve launched this push now. We anticipate we’ll be able to reach more and more people,’ she answered.

‘Every shot in every arm is a win because that person is now safe and protected from getting COVID-19.’ 

Guthrie also asked if the 70 percent benchmark is a goal for political purposes or if there is a public health threshold.

‘We know that the more and more people that get one vaccine and then two – get fully vaccinated – the more we as a nation are protected,’ Walensky said.

‘We know that the vaccine not only protects individuals, it protects communities, it protects their families. And so the more people who get vaccines…there is no magic target for herd immunity.’

Twelve U.S. states - California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont have administered at least one coronavirus vaccine dose to 70% of their adult populations

Twelve U.S. states - California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont have administered at least one coronavirus vaccine dose to 70% of their adult populations

Twelve U.S. states – California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont have administered at least one coronavirus vaccine dose to 70% of their adult populations

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