Kern’s COVID-19 deaths reported at delayed rates as health officials wait for death certificate information

March 5, 2021 /

For the past few weeks, Kern’s COVID-19 death count has increased rather quickly, with health officials announcing double digit number of deaths each day, according to the health department’s dashboard.

On Wednesday, Kern Public Health officials announced 13 new COVID-19 deaths, while on Tuesday, there were 25 deaths announced. On Monday, there were 26 COVID-19 deaths announced and 24 on Sunday. However, when you look at the Kern Public Health Department’s COVID-19 dashboard, the last death that occurred was on Feb. 16, when one COVID-19 death took place.

This means there are delays in Kern’s reporting of COVID-19 deaths. Michelle Corson, the public information officer for the Kern County Public Health Department, said there are reasons for delays in reporting deaths.

“When our department is notified of a death, we continue to check regularly for a death certificate,” Corson said. “We wait for the death certificate to be registered prior to reporting the death to ensure the manner of death includes COVID-19.”

There are also other factors to consider, such as if a Kern County resident dies of COVID-19 in another County.

“If a Kern County resident dies in another county of state, it takes time for that information to be passed from the county of death to the county of residence,” Corson said.

At times, not all of the needed information is provided from the from the county of death, requiring the county of residence to seek out the needed information, such as laboratory reports and other medical records in order to register the death certificate, Corson said.

There is a good chance there will be delays in reporting a COVID-19 death even when a Kern resident dies in Kern County. There have been instances when COVID-19 positive lab results are received after the death certificate has been completed, which requires a formal amendment to the death certificate. Another scenario could be when a person dies of an unknown cause, the person may have to undergo a variety of tests to determine the cause.

“While a COVID-19 test may result quickly, the results of the other tests must be available so they can all be reviewed before making a determination,” said Corson.

The delays has caused some confusion for some Kern residents. Instead of adding the number of deaths announced each day to the dashboard on the day they are announced, the Kern County Public Health Department adds those deaths to the day the death occurred.

The Kern County Public Health Department announced Thursday 138 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 103,894 cases. Health officials also announced 9 new deaths, bringing the total to 924.