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KDHE's Dr. Norman breaks down death certificates of COVID-19 cases

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Posted at 5:22 PM, Sep 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-30 18:22:54-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In his weekly press briefing, Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Dr. Lee Norman broke down the process of how death certificates are reported.

"We've talked a lot about how deaths get reported and particularly about why they are of importance," Norman said.

Death certificates are important because the information is used by governments, public health agencies and medical researchers to plan and fund programs to better understand a virus and prevent more deaths.

All death certificates are not filled out by staff members at KDHE and instead physicians, coroners and medical examiners.

Norman used a chart with two columns comparing a deaths from a case of COVID-19 and pneumonia.

Both columns had three lines listed as A, B and C. Line A listed the immediate cause of death, line B lists the conditions leading to the cause of the immediate death and line C listed the underlying cause which is the disease or injury that initiated the events resulting in death.

In the example he gave, pneumonia was the immediate cause of death, the condition leading to the death was cancer and the underlying cause was injury to the pancreas.

In the column with the COVID-19 death, the immediate cause of death was acute respiratory distress syndrome, the condition leading to the death acute respiratory failure and the underlying cause was COVID-19.

Norman said understanding this process is important to understanding how deaths are reported.