Northern California county changes COVID-19 death reporting

DUBLIN, Calif. (AP) — A Northern California county has changed its methodology to record coronavirus deaths, causing its fatality figures to decrease by 25%.

The official COVID-19 death count in Alameda County, in the San Francisco Bay Area, fell from 1,634 to 1,223 after officials changed the criteria for fatalities to match state and national definitions, the county’s public health department said in a news release.

The county will now only report deaths as coronavirus-related fatalities when people died as a direct result of COVID-19, or had the virus as a contributing cause of death as well as people for whom COVID-19 could not be ruled out as a cause of death.

Previously, the county had included any person who died while infected with the virus. For example, if someone had died in a car crash but had tested positive for COVID-19, they were counted as part of the county’s virus deaths — though they would not be included in the state’s figures, T he Mercury News reported.

The county’s methodology change does not disproportionally impact reported deaths for any specific race, ethnic group or ZIP code, the public health department said.

Statewide, more than 62,000 people have died from the coronavirus.