If each of us is going to make informed decisions when it comes to COVID-19, we need facts – not fear.
But we know there’s a lot of conflicting information out there. So, here’s a look at some of the most common questions we see folks asking and answers we found for you.
Q: What counts as a COVID death? And do other illnesses get mixed into that count?
A: The CDC urges coroners and medical examiners to list COVID-19 as a cause or underlying factor of death on a death certificate. There was some confusion months ago when it was tougher to test. But if a person dies from a trauma related to a car wreck, for example, even if they have COVID-19, trauma should be listed as the primary cause of death. This has led some to question whether COVID death figures are inflated. But Dr. Anthony Fauci has said, if anything, it’s likely the opposite since many deaths occurred before we were able to test for the disease. “I don’t know what percent higher, but almost certainly it’s higher,” said Fauci.
Q: Did most of the 120 new deaths we learned about on July 9 (based on the data for July 8) actually occur in June?
A: The confusion about this seems to center on a “date” column that exists on the Florida Department of Health website. It reads: “Date Case Counted." The State of Florida’s Joint Information Center on COVID-19 tells us that column refers to the date of an individual’s positive test result, not the date they died.
Q: Is COVID-19 becoming less deadly?
A: Dr. Jay Wolfson with USF Public Health says a newer strain of the virus might be slightly less harmful, although some reports have suggested it is also more contagious. But mostly, he says, it’s more likely that we are getting better at preventing deaths. “We have some new medications that we're using for the very sick patients that are allowing them to live,” said Dr. Wolfson.
Q: If you get tested for COVID-19 multiple times and are positive multiple times, do all those count toward Florida’s total?
A: The answer is it depends upon what you’re referring to as “total”. Dr. Wolfson says every test taken does count toward the total number of tests counted by the state of Florida, even if the same person has taken multiple tests. But once a positive “case” is identified, it is not recorded multiple times toward that “total."
“That’s an individual who they get a name on. And they’re supposed to separate that from the number of tests that were performed,” said Dr. Wolfson.
Q: What is the actual COVID-19 mortality rate?
A: Mortality rates may differ slightly depending upon the criteria used to classify a death as being caused COVID-19.
“For the most part, the mortality rate is about 1%. Which is pretty high,” said Dr. Wolfson. “You know it can be 10 or 20 times higher than influenza and you’ve got to be careful that you’re measuring the COVID mortality rate. We see the mortality rates listed as COVID, pneumonia, and flu. And, again, we’ve gotten much better at distinguishing those things. If you look at Florida for the last 60, 90 days, the death rate has come down. It’s plateaued. We’re doing better than Arizona for example. Better than Texas. Only because we came out of our insulation a couple of weeks later after we put the cap on it. But I think we’re going to catch up if we’re not careful.”
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