White House: US taking 'very liberal' approach to counting COVID-19 deaths

Federal officials are treating anyone who dies with coronavirus as having died from it.

Updated: April 11, 2020 - 2:44pm

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The White House confirmed this week that federal medical officials have adopted broad diagnostic criteria when assessing coronavirus deaths in the United States, essentially treating any American who dies while infected with coronavirus as having died from it. 

White House coronavirus task force response coordinator Deborah Birx said at a press conference this week that authorities have decided on a generous approach to diagnosing coronavirus fatalities. "I think in this country we've taken a very liberal approach to mortality," she said.

"There are other countries that if you had a preexisting condition and let's say the virus caused you to go to the ICU and then have a heart or kidney problem. Some countries are recording as a heart issue or a kidney issue and not a COVID-19 death," she said. Yet in the United States, she added, "the intent is right now that...if someone dies with COVID-19 we are counting that as a COVID-19 death."

That approach has reportedly been applied in Italy, which records among the highest death rates from the disease across the planet. Italian health official Walter Ricciardi told media last month that "the way in which we code deaths in our country is very generous in the sense that all the people who die in hospitals with the coronavirus are deemed to be dying of the coronavirus."

Other public officials have also adopted broad COVID-19 coding policies. In Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine on Friday confirmed at a press conference that the state would begin counting residents as being infected with COVID-19 so long as they showed likely signs of infection. DeWine said these criteria were developed by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.