Additionally, also not now included in the state's COVID-19 death count are roughly 3,000 deaths "where the person's death certificate indicated symptoms similar to COVID-19, but it's not clear if COVID-19 actually played a role in the person's death", Hutchinson said, as per the news outlet.
The state has disputed claims that its COVID-19 death total is inflated by as much as 13%, as reported by the Freedom Foundation. There are another 20 to 30 deaths that don't have COVID-19 listed on the death certificate but "are harder to rule out" because they list other "conditions that COVID could be involved in or hasten a death" like Alzheimer's, stroke, or renal failure, Hutchinson said. Almost 10% of Washington's COVID-19 deaths can not be linked "to a positive case" of coronavirus in the state's disease tracking system.
"It's going to be extremely hard to figure out if any of these were COVID-related", said Katie Hutchinson with the Washington State Department of Health, which is now investigating those deaths.
Pierce County reported four new cases and one new death Thursday.
"Because we provide the data in near real time, our dashboard numbers include any death to a person who has tested postive for COVID-19", Hutchinson said. "This is part of our normal process for reporting preliminary information". However, they are "similar to COVID-19", Hutchinson said. We have about 5 deaths. that we know of that are related to obvious other causes.
Hutchinson said they believe as time goes on and the reporting improves, it's more likely they'll learn that they're under counting deaths due to COVID-19.
Hutchinson said another 100 death certificates mentioned COVID-19 but lack lab confirmation for the disease.
Between 20 and 30 other cases included in the count are more hard to rule out, the health department official went on, as the virus is believed to have played a role in their passing, but non-coronavirus causes are listed on their official death certificates.
Those details will help officials understand who is most at risk and what they're seeing in terms of manifestations of the illness, she said.
They also have a number of certificates where it's really unclear how the person died, so it might read "unspecified natural causes", for example.
There are 3,000 deaths that DOH has flagged that could be COVID-19 deaths. "We're trying to work on that". As a result, there is some potential for adjustments as more information comes to light. It might take six to 12 months to get clarification on cause of death. "There are no ways of identifying deaths that could be COVID-19 related but didn't have a test or were not suspected to be a COVID-19 case", she said. There are now just under 100 cases that are listed as probable COVID-19, but they haven't been able to link them to a positive case.