A Missouri coroner revealed that he has omitted COVID-19 on at least six death certificates if families requested it in cases where other major factors may have also played a role.
Macon County Coroner Brian Hayes, a Republican elected official, told The Kansas City Star that “a lot of families were upset,” and “didn’t want COVID on the death certificates.”
“I won’t lie for them, it’s gotta be true, but I do what pleases the family,” he added.
The coroner, who is also a partner at a local funeral home, explained that the requests from families have only been fulfilled in cases where other conditions, such as pneumonia or long-term smoking, were also determined as central factors in contributing to a person’s death.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said that COVID-19 is only listed as a cause of death if the person would have lived longer without contracting the virus.
According to the CDC, roughly 92 percent of cases where COVID-19 was listed on someone’s death certificate were situations in which the virus prompted a series of events that ultimately led to the person’s passing.
However, the Star noted that Hayes’s alteration to some death certificates makes Macon County’s COVID-19 death count higher than the 19 total reported by officials.
The revelation also comes as health officials have warned that the true coronavirus death toll across the U.S. is likely higher than the official tally of more than 611,000 reported by the CDC as of Tuesday.
The Hill has reached out to Hayes’s office for additional information.
Mike Chambers, the administrator of the Macon County Health Department, told the Star that while he does not necessarily agree with Hayes’s decision to omit COVID-19 on certain death certificates, he admitted that he can “see both sides.”
“There are viruses out there that are so similar to COVID, like the flu, and unless you do a test to confirm, you just don’t know,” Chambers explained.
He went on to say, “If you can link it to a known case, maybe, but we’ve had people that were exposed but their tests turned up negative.”
Meanwhile, the Missouri Department of Health said in a statement, “there has been substantial misinformation aimed at both understating and overstating the impacts of COVID nationally.”
“As such, Missouri has chosen to remain consistent in our determination process, verify it against a national standards process by CDC’s [National Center for Health Statistics], and report consistently,” it added, according to the Star.
The state health department has recorded a total of nearly 578,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Wednesday, in addition to more than 9,700 fatalities due to the virus.
Vaccination rates in the state remain relatively low compared to other parts of the country, with the CDC reporting that about 49 percent of Missouri’s total population has received at least one coronavirus vaccine dose, with just about 42 percent fully vaccinated.