West Virginia discovers more than 160 unreported COVID-19 deaths

Coronavirus in West Virginia

UPDATE: 10 a.m. Friday, March 12: The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources has revised the number of unreported deaths from 168 to 165.

The WV DHHR says further investigation and the quality assurance process determined two individuals at the Wayne Nursing and Rehabilitation Center had recovered from COVID-19 at the time of their deaths. Wayne Nursing and Rehabilitation Center now has zero deaths not properly reported. Another death that occurred at Berkeley Medical Center on the list was determined as a duplicate of a reported death as the first name had been listed as the last name on the report. That facility also now has no improperly reported deaths.

CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — As he does at every briefing, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice honored the latest people to die from COVID-19 in the Mountain State.

But then he dropped a bombshell.

Last Friday, it was discovered that 168 additional West Virginians have died from the Coronavirus. The deaths occurred at 70 health care facilities, and more than half were hospitals, and none were reported to the state at the time of their deaths. Kanawha County alone had 30 unreported deaths.

“How in the world? How in the world could we have 168 great West Virginians that we just passed by? It’s awful. It’s just plain awful,” said Justice.

State officials are stunned because filing and sending the one-page death certificates is an easy process.

“These deaths did become apparent to us once mainly death certificates did come to our vital registration endpoints,” said Dr. Ayne Amjad, West Virginia Public Health Officer.

Besides hospitals, health care facilities that failed to properly report the deaths included nursing homes, hospices, and assisted living facilities. Two of the deaths were corrections inmates who were transferred to hospitals after testing positive.

Wednesday evening, Jim Kaufman, president and CEO of the West Virginia Hospital Association, released the following statement regarding the unreported deaths at hospitals:

Like others in West Virginia, today we learned of unreported COVID-19 related deaths by hospitals and other facilities across the State. It is unfortunate that this reporting error occurred during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in December and January.

The process the State has put in place that led to today’s announcement demonstrates the close partnership between the state and hospitals in responding to this pandemic. Today’s announcement provides an important opportunity to ensure accurate reporting in the future.

We thank our healthcare workers for their hard work and express sympathy to the families who have lost loved ones during the pandemic.

Jim Kaufman, president and CEO of the West Virginia Hospital Association

The governor says it will be up to privately run health care organizations to punish their employees for any wrongdoing. His staff says any state workers who made mistakes could also be disciplined.

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