The Massachusetts Public Health Department announced Thursday that the state would lower its COVID-19 death count by 3,700 due to new measuring criteria being implemented.
Massachusetts deemed COVID-related fatalities those which have case investigations determining the virus “caused” or “contributed” the death, those having COVID-19 as a cause of death on their death certificate, and those having a COVID-19 diagnosis within 60 days of their death. The updated definition will reduce the timeframe from 60 days to 30 days.
“Massachusetts has applied this new definition retroactively to the start of the pandemic in March 2020. As a result, 4,081 deaths in Massachusetts that were previously counted as associated with COVID will be removed,” the statement read.
About 400 deaths were also not previously recorded but later identified as COVID-related and will be added to the death count. Thus the state’s overall COVID-19 death count will decline by 3,700.
Early in the pandemic, to "avoid the possibility of missing any COVID-associated death," any death with a positive test for COVID-19 was counted as a COVID-associated death regardless of the length of time between their diagnosis and their death, according to the statement. From April 2021, the department applied a 60-day timeframe from diagnosis to death for anyone diagnosed with COVID-19.
That’s roughly about 15 percent of the total death toll.
The CDC has been criticized for not distinguishing in its data “from” COVID-19 or “with” COVID-19, in hospitalization and death tolls.
Early this year, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul asked hospitals to report COVID-19 hospitalization numbers with a breakout of those hospitalized because of COVID-19 and those who came to the hospital and happened to test positive.