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State Medical Examiner Says His Office Flagged Dozens Of Previously Unreported COVID-19 Deaths


The state’s chief medical examiner said Wednesday his office identified more than 100 deaths that should have been reported as COVID-19-related, including dozens originally certified as non-COVID fatalities. 

Speaking to the legislature’s appropriations committee earlier this week, Chief Medical Examiner James Gill said his office caught 110 previously undiagnosed COVID-19 deaths between March and October of last year.

“We’ll get a death certificate that says ‘respiratory failure.’ That’s not a competent death certificate,” Gill said.

“If we find out the person is from a nursing home, we’re going to investigate that more and go to the funeral home and do a swab,” Gill said. “We’ve amended several, many, death certificates that initially were not certified as COVID.”

Gill said about half of the 110 deaths occurred at skilled nursing facilities, with a further third being people who died at home.

He said his office caught 47 coronavirus deaths that were not originally linked to COVID-19.

Matt Barrett, president of the Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities, said COVID-19 testing, which was needed to certify COVID-19 deaths, wasn’t available in nursing homes in the early part of the pandemic. 

“A small number of cases were identified and the issue was corrected right away,” Barrett wrote.

Gill said some misidentified cases came to his attention because family members or the media questioned the cause of death. 

“I strongly believe that our State has done [its] best to diagnose and accurately report all COVID-19 deaths in all living situations, including Nursing Homes,” Gill said in a statement Wednesday.

“The OCME will continue to be diligent in our efforts to diagnose and appropriately certify the deaths due to COVID-19,” he said.

Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached by phone at 860-275-7297 or by email: pskahill@ctpublic.org.

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