While the accuracy of the number of coronavirus-related fatalities in Illinois has been a source of discussion and debate since the pandemic began, health officials say that they are constantly auditing the number of fatalities to ensure as accurate of a count as possible.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, says that in her department’s accounting of COVID-19 related fatalities, they have found that less than 0.6% of the deaths classified as COVID fatalities involved another primary cause of death that wasn’t related to the virus itself.
“When we have looked at all the deaths that have occurred, and unfortunately there have been over 9,074 at this point, we have looked at those that were related to an accident or obviously not proximate to the COVID-19 virus,” she said during a press conference Wednesday. “It was less than 0.6% of those deaths were in that category where it was an accident, or homicide, or something where the COVID diagnosis was not the proximate cause of death.”
There have been multiple reports of deaths that were classified as COVID-19 related that turned out to have another “proximate” cause, with Ezike citing cases involving auto accidents, homicides or suicides that were erroneously included in the number of coronavirus deaths in the state.
Even with those numbers in mind, Ezike says that 2020 has seen uptick in the number of total deaths when compared to other years, and while not all of those additional fatalities can be attributed to the virus, she says that many can be either indirectly or directly tied to the ongoing pandemic that has cost over 9,000 Illinois residents their lives.
Ezike cited an increase in accidental overdoses as another factor in the increased number of fatalities in the state this year, along with individuals not seeking prompt medical care out of fear that they could be infected with the coronavirus when going to a doctor’s office or a hospital.
“It’s a conglomeration of all of those things that have caused the deaths to be much higher than they were in previous years,” she said.