Dr. Ngozi Ezike

Dr. Ngozi Ezike Refutes Notion That Illinois is Over-counting COVID-19 Deaths

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, dismissed claims that the state is overstating the number of coronavirus-related deaths amid the ongoing pandemic, saying that only deaths of patients with laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus are being counted in the official tally.

During her daily press statement Tuesday, Ezike said that she has heard concerns about the methods the state is using to report coronavirus deaths, and assured residents that the state is working to make sure that their counts are as accurate as possible.

 “We are reporting those deaths that have laboratory confirmation, meaning that they have been tested and a laboratory test indicates that they were COVID positive,” she said. “As we learn more about the disease, there may have been less typical presentations of COVID-19 that were not appropriately attributed to COVID because there wasn’t a test done because the suspicion was not there.”

In all, Illinois has reported 3,601 deaths related to the virus since the pandemic began. The state reported 144 additional deaths on Tuesday, with 4.3 percent of confirmed COVID-19 cases resulting in deaths.

Ezike said that the state is being careful to make sure to weed out deaths where the patient had COVID-19, but died in a manner completely detached from the virus, such as gunshot wounds or motor vehicle crashes.

May 11 briefing: Dr. Ngozi Ezike reveals how Illinois’ first shipment of a drug called remdesivir, which is being used to help treat hospitalized coronavirus patients, will be distributed. The Food and Drug Administration recently cleared Gilead Science’s intravenous drug for hospitalized patients with “severe disease,” such as those experiencing breathing problems requiring supplemental oxygen or ventilators.

“There are also some additional deaths that happen in someone who happened to be COVID positive, but where the COVID infection had nothing to do with the deaths,” she said. “So we are at IDPH trying to remove those obvious cases where the COVID diagnosis was not the reason for the death. If there was a gunshot wound, if there was a motor vehicle accident, we know that that was not related to the COVID positive status.

“We are trying to make sure that things that aren’t related at all to the COVID diagnosis are removed, but if someone has another illness, like heart disease, and then had a stroke or other event, it’s not as easy to separate that and say COVID didn’t exacerbate that existing illness. That would not be removed from the count,” she added.

Above all else, Ezike said that the state is striving for as much accuracy as possible, presenting a true picture of what is going on statewide when reporting on the number of cases and fatalities related to the virus.

 “We will continue to work to provide quickly and responsibly and accurately represent what we are, in fact, seeing here in Illinois,” she said.

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