State epidemiologist releases statement after COVID death count jumps by the thousands

Collaborator: Brittany Harlow
Published: 03/04/2021, 7:15 PM
Edited: 03/11/2021, 10:22 AM
(TULSA, Okla.) Oklahomans got a shocking update Wednesday, after the state’s COVID-19 death toll jumped to 7,035, up 2,501 deaths from the day before. The Oklahoma State Department of Health said they are changing the way they report COVID-19 deaths in an effort to show a timelier picture of the disease’s impact in Oklahoma. Oklahoma State Epidemiologist Dr. Jared Taylor released the following statement on the recent change: “The Oklahoma State Health Department has always tracked COVID-19 deaths in multiple ways. We have reported the CDC death numbers, which are based purely on death certificates, and our own methodology, which counts deaths after an epidemiological investigation in Acute Disease Service (ADS). Both systems are correct, but each comes with its pros and cons for evaluating deaths related to COVID-19. As cases increased toward the end of 2020, our investigating epidemiologists began encountering larger numbers of incomplete records requiring in-depth investigation. This has resulted in an increasing difference between the OSDH death count and the one reported by CDC. Both the CDC and ADS numbers will continue to be available to Oklahomans, but the CDC number will become our primary reported number. We will also continue our case investigation process through ADS and state epidemiologists. However, we feel this reporting change will align better with CDC’s numbers and will provide the most up-to-date and transparent information for Oklahomans. Addressing a global crisis in our home state requires flexibility to change course when conditions on the ground mandate a new approach. This is one of those times. Transparency and access to data is the priority here, and we feel this change is best to keep our state accountable to all Oklahomans during the ongoing fight against COVID-19. Every single death in Oklahoma is a tragedy, and every single life has been and will be counted and remembered as we endure this pandemic.” On Thursday, the provisional death count rose by 87 additional deaths. The state has had 426,641 cases of COVID-19 resulting in 24,103 hospitalizations to date.


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