Reclassification of WI COVID-19 deaths raising questions

Published: Mar. 22, 2021 at 5:12 PM CDT
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The reclassification of COVID-19 deaths by State DHS is raising questions by lawmakers.

Wisconsin health officials changed nearly 1,000 COVID-19 deaths from an unknown housing setting to a long-term care facility.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) adjusted the data in the past two weeks.

Now State DHS says about 45% of COVID-19 deaths happened in long-term care facilities, previously reported as 30%-- which at the time was significantly lower than neighboring states, according to Wisconsin State Senator Patrick Testin.

Testin says the correction in data may be cause for concern, adding Wisconsin needs to know whether this lack of transparency is intentional or an error.

“Even today the Governor said that any investigation or audit would be weaponized,” said Senator Testin. “I can’t fathom why the Governor would view transparency as a weapon in this process when the legislature could provide answers to some of these questions and work with the department to make sure that this never happens again. When the department says they can’t identify where someone lives because all they had was an address, well we have Google maps. There are a number of different ways we could get this information, much quicker in a timely manner and not have to wait a year.”

Senator Testin says there are nearly 1,700 deaths still listed as occurring in an unknown setting.

WEAU did reach out to DHS for comment, but did not hear back.

Wisconsin State Senator Patrick Testin is calling on the Evers administration for “misreporting COVID-19 fatalities of residents in Wisconsin’s long-term care facilities”.

Senator Testin says the Department of Health Services needs to explain why the state data is still wrong.

“We’ve been told for months that residents of long-term care facilities accounted for only 30% of fatalities, even though this number was strikingly low compared to other states,” said Testin. “And now we find out that the data was wrong, and nearly half of our COVID-19 deaths were in long-term care. It’s a huge problem that the Evers Administration has provided flawed information as the state has worked to respond to this health crisis.”

Testin added that the reclassification resulted in the number of deaths increasing by about 1,000. Saying that there is also nearly 1,700 deaths are still listed as occurring in an unknown setting.

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