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Work to Do

Reporting all COVID deaths

Public health officials in West Virginia have work to do to determine how 168 coronavirus-related deaths went unreported at a number of hospitals and nursing homes. According to Gov. Jim Justice, the problem’s genesis appears to be with employees that failed to fill out death reports online for the state health department.

“This is absolutely not acceptable,” Justice said last week in announcing the discovery. “I’m really sorry.”

It’s good to note that, so far, it appears nothing untoward took place with the underreporting — this isn’t a case such as in New York where numbers were manipulated in an attempt to make the governor there, Andrew Cuomo, look better. The matter in West Virginia appears to be nothing more than human error.

That doesn’t make it acceptable, though. We understand the tense and stressful conditions many facilities found themselves working under during the height of the pandemic, and it’s not surprising that mistakes were made. Now is the time, though, to make sure the death numbers are correct so the public can move forward with a better understanding of the toll COVID-19 placed on all of us. If West Virginians are to make informed decisions about the safest way to move forward, we need to be confident we aren’t missing more than 7 percent of the necessary data.

Dr. Ayne Amjad, the state’s health officer, said the state is also trying to figure out whether there are any more unreported deaths.

Justice appeared upset during the press briefing in which he revealed the reporting gap. He and all Mountain State residents have a right to be concerned about this revelation. It comes only a few months after the November discovery that dozens of deaths had not been reported as coronavirus-related.

State health officials need to get to the bottom of this matter so the public can move forward with accurate information. And details of their investigation needs to come sooner rather than later, as well.

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