US Virus Death Count To Include ‘Probable’ Cases

April 16, 2020 Updated: April 16, 2020

The COVID-19 death toll in the United States will rise by at least hundreds as a new change by the federal agency keeping the official count said it will now include both confirmed and probable cases and deaths.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) directed states on Tuesday to include the probable cases and deaths in the reports they make to the agency.

Confirmed cases or deaths are defined by laboratory testing. Probable cases and deaths can fit under several definitions.

“A probable case or death is defined by i) meeting clinical criteria AND epidemiologic evidence with no confirmatory laboratory testing performed for COVID-19; or ii) meeting presumptive laboratory evidence AND either clinical criteria OR epidemiologic evidence; or iii) meeting vital records criteria with no confirmatory laboratory testing performed for COVID-19,” the CDC said in an update on its website.

The change was made to reflect a statement (pdf) issued earlier this month by the Council for State and Territorial Epidemiologists. The council’s committee recommended the federal agency include “probable” cases in its criteria and issued a definition for probable cases that’s similar to the one published on the CDC’s website.

The change was made in part because of the growing body of evidence that points to a significant percentage of people who become infected with the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, a novel coronavirus that emerged from mainland China last year, never showing symptoms.

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Goods are donated for distribution to those in need at North Babylon High School in New York on April 16, 2020. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The CCP virus causes COVID-19, a disease that can cause serious illness or even death in some patients, primarily among the infirm.

The reporting change will give officials “a better picture of the burden of COVID-19 in the U.S,” the CDC said in a statement.

Some states and cities are already beginning to report probable cases and/or deaths.

New York City added 3,778 probable deaths to its count this week while New York state officials are contacting facilities to try to find deaths where patients may have died from COVID-19 but aren’t currently counted in the state’s death toll.

“We want to make sure that every New Yorker is counted that has been taken from this vicious virus,” New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot told reporters in Manhattan.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo cited the CDC’s updated guidelines as spurring the change.

Ohio and Wyoming included probable cases and deaths in its update on Thursday, with Ohio reporting 175 probable cases and 16 probable deaths. The state has 8,239 confirmed cases and 373 confirmed deaths. Wyoming’s Department of Health said there are 288 laboratory confirmed cases, 105 probable cases, and two COVID-19 related deaths in the state.

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