According to a new report released by the CENTERS for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Monday (23 December), WHO did not make a clear distinction between a death caused by a coronavirus and a death related by a coronavirus.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claims that it follows WHO guidelines when reporting causes of death, using the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, 10th edition, or ICD-10.
Who classifies coronavirus deaths into U07.1 and UO7.2 to count the number of cases for which a definitive cause of death cannot be determined. UO7.1 is applicable in cases where the laboratory is able to confirm that the virus was the true cause of death and UO7.2 is applicable in all other cases where novel Coronavirus is only a part of the diagnosis.
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, THE CDC only uses the UO7.1 classification, but includes all deaths related to novel Coronavirus in this code. This, they say, “leaves room to explain when to use the code,” leaving doctors with no clear guidance.
The CDC’s Guidance for Vital Statistics reporting does not provide much clear information, including defining the underlying cause of death as “a disease or injury that triggers a series of morbidevents that directly lead to death, or an accident or violent environment that results in fatal injury.”
However, some coroners find it difficult to manage and report a broad description. If a patient had or is presumed to have had a coronavirus at any time before death, they will be expected to classify any death caused by a cause as related to a coronavirus.
“They may actually have died from gunshot wounds,” said Brenda Bock, the coroner in Grand County, Colo. “As they had tested a coronavirus earlier this month, our State Health department classified them as having a novel Coronavirus.”
For any patient, whether or not they have been exposed to the virus or even tested positive for the virus, doctors can apply the UO7.1 code in a number of ways. In some cases, the code applies even if there are other factors, most notably influenza or pneumonia. In these cases, the CDC has created a new mortality classification called PIC.
In the first three weeks of February through December, 411,477 people died from pneumonia, flu, novel Coronavirus or some combination of those. Of these, 288,287 deaths were coded as those caused by novel Coronavirus and confirmed as such.
However, it is reported that nearly 140,000 persons may or may have been identified as ICD-10 due to novel Coronavirus. Because of the overlap, the death toll reported by mainstream media is even higher.
On Monday, the CENTERS for Disease Control and Prevention reported fewer than 290,000 deaths from COVID-19, while the New York Times reported 323,002. On the same day, NBC reported 323,012 cases and CNN 322,765.