Rantz: Gun shot victims counted as Washington coronavirus deaths
May 23, 2020, 4:35 PM | Updated: May 25, 2020, 12:10 pm
Washington state counts gun shot victims as coronavirus related deaths, state public health officials admit.
This method of counting coronavirus deaths, which could pad the numbers, has incredible implications. It doesn’t just artificially increase the death rate. It is used by Governor Jay Inslee to keep the economy shut down longer than may be necessary.
These findings were first reported by the Freedom Foundation, which now finds itself the target of Inslee’s bizarrely-expressed ire.
Padding the Washington coronavirus death data
In a telephone press briefing last week, public health officials with the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) acknowledge their data collection is unusual.
“So our method that we use to give up-to-date counts related to COVID death is not our usual process for how we track data for deaths in Washington,” Dr. Katie Hutchison, Health Statistics Manager for DOH. “We had to modify what we normally do in order to quickly meet the data and informational needs of the pandemic. We’re aware that there is some confusion about how this works and whether or not this modified process is accurate.”
It seems obvious that their data is not accurate. They imply as much: “Our dashboard numbers do include any death to a person that has tested positive to COVID-19.”
That means, if a COVID-19 patient dies of a gun shot wound or in a car crash, the data lists that patient as a coronavirus death. If a tree falls on a coronavirus patient and kills them? It’s listed as a coronavirus death.
“We currently do have some deaths that are being reported that are clearly from other causes,” Dr. Hutchison admits. “We have about five deaths, less than five deaths, that we know of that are related to obvious other causes. In this case, they are from gunshot wounds.”
Complexities in counting
Hutchison explained to reporters that the Washington coronavirus death data collection is complex, since “providing data in near real time is not our normal process.” Indeed, finalized death data “takes up to 18 months from start to finish.”
The DOH says there are about 100 cases where someone is listed as dying from coronavirus (or “probable” from coronavirus), but they can’t trace how the individual got the coronavirus. They can’t, then, definitively rule these cases as coronavirus deaths, though they’re being treated that way.
The state also has about 3,000 death certificates in their system that have deaths relating to symptoms of coronavirus. These are not counted in the death numbers because they have not been investigated fully yet. If all are actual coronavirus deaths, it would put Washington into the top 10 highest death counts by state (assuming the other states aren’t counting deaths the way we are). That would be a bad look for Inslee, and would keep us closed longer.
At this point, DOH also has between 20 and 30 cases where coronavirus is not listed as a cause of death, though it may be the main contributing factor. If so, the DOH could be under-counting in that regard. Or, they shouldn’t be counted at all, which means it wouldn’t undercut the information they’re providing.
In other words, the numbers we’re getting are far from accurate. But this matters more now than ever.
Implications are serious
Inslee is making decisions about our phase-in plan to reopen the economy in real time. But the data he’s using will change. The Freedom Foundation argues the Washington coronavirus deaths is inflated by 13%.
While one can easily understand why it’s difficult to accurately count deaths in real time during a pandemic, Inslee is using the data to make decisions in real time. He’s not waiting six months to get the data finalized.
Why is that important? Part of his guidance for reopening the economy (or starting Phase 2 early) is contingent on having less than 10 cases of cornavirus per 100,000 residents. What if we see a surge of new Washington coronavirus deaths? Inslee changes guidelines on a dime. One coronavirus-positive gun shot victim or a car crash fatality with coronavirus-positive victims could pause a Phase 2 start for a county. That has serious economic implications.
And, to be fair, it could also mean he’s green-lighting the reopening of economies too soon. But we can say right now that gun shot victims aren’t coronavirus deaths. Pull them immediately! We can’t craft public policy, however, on the possibility that a death was coronavirus related without actually studying it.
Still, Inslee is pretending this data discrepancy isn’t meaningful.
Inslee’s bizarre attack
After the Freedom Foundation released their discovery, Gov. Inslee went on the offensive in a weird way.
“The problem is you got some people out there who are fanning these conspiracy claims from the planet Pluto,” Inslee said last week, “And it’s just disgusting what they’re trying to say of all these crazy deep-state malarkey. Who are kinda suggests that this not a problem in our state. I find that hard to accept with the number of dead in our state. So, that’s a problem. And I hope it gets resolved.”
A lot of this is nonsensical gibberish. And can we acknowledge he chose Pluto because he thinks alliteration is charming and effective? It’s neither.
For starters, this isn’t a “deep state” conspiracy theory. Inslee’s own DOH acknowledges the data isn’t accurate. And there’s no legitimate reason to ever count a gun shot victim, car crash victim, or any other death very obviously not coronavirus-related as part of the data given to the Governor.
In Colorado, there was a similar controversy over the data. Instead of citing a deep state conspiracy, the state’s Democratic governor sharply revised-down his state’s coronavirus deaths. Unlike Inslee, Governor Jared Polis chose not to use knowingly false data to inform his decision to reopen their economy.
Then, Inslee weirdly claims people, who note DOH admits the data is inaccurate, don’t believe the coronavirus is real and deadly. Literally no one claims that. It’s the same style of sleazy, bad-faith argument where Inslee accuses you of wanting to see 60-year-old Washingtonians die if you want to responsibly reopen the economy. If he can get the media and public to dismiss his critics, Inslee won’t have to answer tough questions. It’s the move of a coward.
The bottom line is this: The data we’re getting on Washington coronavirus deaths is wrong. Inslee’s own DOH admits it. Yet Inslee is unwilling to acknowledge that fact without attacking critics with contrived deep-state conspiracy theories. That suggests he knows he can’t defend his “data and science” approach to reopening the economy.
It seems pretty clear that Inslee has no clue what he’s doing. He thinks acceptable data is a comic drawing of a dial. It’s not. He makes proclamations before walking them back, changes his mind seemingly on a whim and has literally no data to back up some of his decisions (e.g., privately-funded construction dangerous but publicly-funded construction safe).
So where are we at? A governor who aims to shame or bully critics into silence while he stumbles through his re-opening plan. And as a consequence, the economy will continue to suffer.
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