Why Alameda County’s COVID death toll dropped 25%

A woman gets tested at a Covid-19 test site at Madison Park in downtown Oakland, Calif., on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020.MediaNews Group/East Bay Times v/MediaNews Group via Getty Images

Alameda County updated its methodology for reporting coronavirus-related fatalities on Friday, resulting in a 25% drop in the county’s death toll.

The total number of people who have died from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic went from 1,634 to 1,223, according to data as of May 23.

The new count only includes those people “who died as a direct result of COVID-19, with COVID-19 as a contributing cause of death, or in whom death caused by COVID-19 could not be ruled out,” according to a statement from the county.

The county previously included any person who died while infected with the virus in the total COVID-19 deaths for the jurisdiction. Case in point: People who died in a car crashes and tested positive for COVID were counted in the county’s previous system even though they were not included in the state toll. 

The update did not disproportionally impact reported deaths for any specific race or ethnic group or zip code. 

“It is important to note that earlier adoption of the State reporting definition would not have changed the course of the pandemic, nor would it have affected the key measures, including case rate, test positivity and hospitalizations, that drove public health responses to the pandemic,” the county said in its statement. 

California has reported 62,470 COVID-related deaths since the start of the pandemic, according to state data.

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