CDPHE: State continues to enhance COVID-19 data

Additional death certificate data will affect Colorado mortality count this week

DENVER, April 22, 2020: Starting this week, visitors to the state health department’s COVID-19 web site will notice new data points and additional deaths that had previously not appeared in the state’s mortality count. 

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) will now provide COVID-19 death data by date of death. Previously, the department reported deaths based on the day it received the information. The state does not always receive death data on the day a person dies.

The state obtains death data from a variety of sources. Health care providers, coroners, and local public health all report directly to the state’s epidemiology and surveillance team. The state also receives data through death certificate information. After a death, the state generally receives death certificate information within three days. 

Starting this week, CDPHE epidemiologists began to review the cause of death information on death certificates and began to enter COVID-19 caused deaths into the state’s database if those deaths had not previously been reported to the state. Due to the lag in time between when a person dies and when the state receives the death certificate information, there could continue to be a short delay in getting and reporting some of the data to the public.

This data entry will include adding “probable” COVID-19 deaths. A death is classified as  “probable” if the decedent was a Colorado resident who had no known positive laboratory test for COVID-19 but the death certificate lists as a cause of death “COVID-19” or an equivalent. Because of this review and data entry of death certificates by epidemiologists, we anticipate an increase in the total number of COVID-19 deaths in Colorado by about 130 this week. This is not because those individuals died this week, but because their deaths have now been recorded in the state system. 

In addition, the state has been collaborating with the Colorado Hospital Association to share data that helps provide a picture of the level of demand that the pandemic disease is placing on hospitals across the state.  Starting today, the state’s hospital data dashboard will display information on current ventilator usage and availability across all Colorado hospitals, as well as the number of hospitalized patients who are suspected  — but not confirmed — of having COVID (known as “patients under investigation”). This information is requested from Colorado hospitals on a daily basis and shared by the state with permission from the Colorado Hospital Association; any questions about the data should be directed to the Colorado Hospital Association.

The department also issued a public health order to provide guidance to hospitals regarding what information to provide to the state. 

Additional changes to data in the next few days include:

  • An increase in the number of cases identified due to widespread targeted testing in specific communities or facilities.
  • A decrease in the case counts at the county level due to the removal of out-of-state cases from Colorado’s data. In the early stages it was important to include these cases, as it was an indication of the transmission in a particular community. As more widespread transmission has occurred, this information is no longer needed. Removing out-of-state cases also ensures cases are not counted twice (e.g. in both states). In addition, international cases will be moved to a separate category, but still included in Colorado case counts.
  • Additional changes in case counts will occur due to the general updating of data. This includes entering positive cases not previously reported from out-of-state labs, and additional reporting of cases related to outbreaks.

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CDPHE: State continues to enhance COVID-19 data