Department of Health COVID-19 death reports are delayed ‘several days to several weeks’


LANCASTER, Pa (WHTM) — According to the Lancaster County Coroner’s Office, there is a delay in the Department of Health’s statistical reporting of COVID-19 deaths by several days to several weeks.

The Lancaster County Coroner has released the following information addressing the issue:

According to Pennsylvania State Law, any death known or suspected to be due to a contagious disease or constituting a public hazard is required to be reported to the County Coroner’s Office.

Therefore, the Coroner’s Office is notified immediately of all known or suspected COVID-19 deaths. At the time of notification, a coroner investigator will review past medical history, any symptoms experienced prior to death and any available test results.

Death certificates may be completed by the Coroner’s Office or attending medical professionals who have knowledge of a decedent’s medical history and condition leading up to their death. The determination of a cause of death on a certificate is up to the discretion of the certifying professional.

If a decedent tested positive for COVID-19 and exhibited symptoms of the virus that hastened their demise (either on its own or caused an exacerbation/worsening of their pre-existing conditions), then the death will be attributed to COVID-19.

If a decedent did not experience any symptoms, despite having a positive test result, then the Coroner’s Office and the attending medical professional will determine whether COVID-19
contributed to the cause of death.

The number of deaths reported by the Coroner’s Office only reflects the cases where COVID-19 was listed as the cause of death on a death certificate.

Since the Coroner’s Office is immediately notified of deaths due to COVID-19, the number of deaths reported by the office is near real-time and will normally be higher than the number reported by the State Department of Health.

For a death to be included in the number provided by the state, it must go through the state’s thorough process of properly registering and filing the death certificate. This process requires time and, therefore, results in a delay from the time a death certificate is completed and received by the Bureau of Health Registries and Statistics to when the death is included in the presented number.

The current delay in Department of Health statistical reporting is understood to be several days to several weeks.

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