County of Santa Clara Refines Criteria for Identification of COVID-19 Deaths


Shift Reduces Total Number of Deaths Attributed to the Pandemic by Approximately 22 Percent

Santa Clara County, CA – As a part of continuous efforts to better understand the health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in the community, County of Santa Clara officials announced today that the County’s Public Health Department has conducted a review of all COVID-19 associated deaths reported among county residents who died both inside and outside the county since the onset of the pandemic and has refined the definition for COVID-related deaths. This shift reduces the total number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic by approximately 22 percent. The refined definition includes only deaths in which COVID-19 is listed as part of the cause of death on the death certificate, incorporating information provided by health experts including medical providers and the County Medical Examiner-Coroner’s office. The County’s data dashboards will be updated over the next several days to reflect these refined criteria for COVID-19 deaths.

“Throughout the pandemic, we have focused on bringing the best information to the public as soon as we have it,” said Dr. Sarah Rudman, Assistant Public Health Officer for the County of Santa Clara. “As we see more vaccinations and fewer cases and deaths, we have had the opportunity to more deeply analyze the deaths that came in during the height of the pandemic. This refined approach to reporting death data will help us look back to better understand what happened in our county and look forward to better protect the health of our community in the future. At the same time, our hearts go out to all families and loved ones of those we have lost during the pandemic, regardless of whether their deaths were ultimately attributed to COVID-19.”

Both the prior and updated definitions for COVID-19 deaths used by the County fit within the parameters established by the State of California Department of Public Health. The prior definition included anyone who had COVID-19 who died, while the updated definition focuses on the cause of the death and aligns better with the determinations made by the Medical Examiner-Coroner in cases of overlapping jurisdiction. The updated definition aligns with the approach that many other counties are taking statewide. Even with the updated criteria and corresponding reduction in deaths, COVID-19 remains the third leading cause of death for County residents in 2020. The Public Health Department will continue to review the data to learn more about the impacts of COVID-19, particularly on those communities hardest hit by the pandemic.

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