CDC director: 'Possibility’ some individuals not 'diagnosed with COVID' are in death count

'There is that possibility, but I do think that the reporting we do get from the state and local and tribal territory health departments and our center for national health statistics is accurate,' Redfield says

Updated: August 4, 2020 - 4:28pm

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Dr. Robert Redfield, director of of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Tuesday that there's a “possibility” some individuals who hadn't been "diagnosed" with COVID-19 are included in the total death count.

According to a USA Today report, hospitals get reimbursed more for treating COVID-19 patients compared to others.

During a House hearing last week, Redfield was asked if he thinks there are hospitals inflating COVID-19 deaths counts due to financial incentives.

"I do think there's some reality to that. When it comes to death reporting, though, ultimately, it's how the physician defines it in the death certificate," he responded.

"I think it's probably less operable in the cause of death, although, I won’t say there are not some cases. I do think, though, when it comes to hospital reimbursement issues for individuals that get discharged there could be some play in that for sure," he also said.

According to CDC data, there have been 154,471 coronavirus-related deaths in the United States.

Just the News asked Redfield on Tuesday whether he was aware of some hospitals incorrectly reporting COVID-19 deaths and to describe the consequences a hospital or a physician would face for doing it.

"The way death certificates are completed, they're completed by the physician of record," he said on a conference call. "And as a physician we make our best assessment as to what we believe the primary cause of death was. And then frequently we'll note if there were some contributory factors, and then those death certificates become part of the public health record, and eventually they make their way to our national health statistics center in Hyattsville."

Redfield explained that the cause of death is a "clinical decision that is made by the physician that is either of record or is the physician that is assigned to complete the death certificate."

Redfield was also asked whether he thinks the current national COVID-19 death count is accurate.

"There's no reason to suspect that the death count is not accurate," he replied. "Obviously, there are individuals that may die that may not have been diagnosed with COVID, so there is that possibility, but I do think that the reporting we do get from the state and local and tribal territory health departments and our center for national health statistics is accurate."

According to CDC guidance from April on reporting COVID-19 deaths, “Ideally testing for COVID–19 should be conducted but it is acceptable to report COVID–19 on a death certificate without this confirmation if the circumstances are compelling within a reasonable degree of certainty.”