Pennsylvania revises coronavirus death toll, excludes probable cases

Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine speaks at a coronavirus press conference. (Office of Gov. Tom Wolf)

The Pennsylvania Department of Health slashed the state’s COVID-19 death toll on Thursday by 201, saying probable deaths it had previously included in the count were eliminated after further investigation.

The overall death toll now stands at 1,421, down from 1,622 reported a day earlier.

The number of deaths confirmed by a positive virus test actually rose overnight by 69, to 1,394. But Levine said Thursday that 270 probable deaths that had been added to the death toll in recent days have been removed after further investigation.

“This verification process is very intensive and under normal circumstances it can take months to complete,” she said. “We continue to refine the data that we are collecting to provide everyone this information in as near time as we possibly can. This is really difficult with thousands of reports each day.”


State health officials had recently changed the way they count COVID-19 deaths — now including probable deaths along with confirmed deaths — which resulted in a doubling of the state’s death toll in just four days. A probable death is one in which a coroner or medical examiner listed COVID-19 as the cause or contributing cause, but the deceased was not tested for the virus.

Officials have said they are trying to reconcile data provided by hospitals, health care systems, county and municipal health departments and long-term care living facilities with the department’s own records. Some county coroners have accused the state Department of Health of botching the numbers.

Statewide, more than 1,369 additional people tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to more than 37,000, the health department reported Thursday.


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