Texas Changes Online COVID-19 Death and Case Reporting
By David Doolittle

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The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) and Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) have made several changes to daily COVID-19 case and fatality reports online, the agencies said this week.

On July 27, HHSC began reporting COVID-19 fatalities based on the date and cause of death listed on death certificates rather than when reported by local and regional health departments after a death has been verified.

Reporting death certificate data “allows fatalities to be counted faster with more comprehensive demographic data … and ensures consistent reporting across the state,” DSHS said in a press release. It also “enables DSHS to display fatalities by date of death, providing the public with more information about when deaths occurred.”

On Monday, 5,713 total fatalities were reported using the new system, compared with 5,038 deaths reported Sunday under the previous method, DSHS said.

“A fatality is counted as due to COVID-19 when the medical certifier, usually a doctor with direct knowledge of the patient, determines COVID-19 directly caused the death,” DSHS said. “This method does not include deaths of people who had COVID-19 but died of an unrelated cause.”

Meanwhile, HHSC has begun posting COVID-19 case counts and deaths by facility name at state-supported living centers, state hospitals, and state-licensed nursing and assisted-living facilities.

Data for the state-operated state-supported living centers and state hospitals will reflect confirmed cases as of the previous business day, HHSC said.

“Because nursing facilities and assisted living facilities self-report data to HHSC, staff must review and correct any clerical or reporting errors to ensure data integrity,” the commission said. “To accommodate time for this review, data posted on these facilities will reflect counts two weeks prior to the date of posting.”

Texas law requires medical certifiers to sign death certificates within 10 business days. COVID-19 death certificates are being completed on average in nine days, DSHS has said.

Earlier this month, DSHS requested that physicians and other medical certifiers expedite completion of death certificates through the end of August as the number of COVID-19 deaths continues to climb.

Since January 2019, deaths in Texas have been filed electronically to the Texas Electronic Vital Events Registrar, also called TxEVER.

For deaths due to COVID-19, report COVID-19 in Cause of Death – Part I on the Medical 2 tab. Report other chronic conditions that may have contributed (such as COPD, asthma) in Cause of Death – Part II on the Medical 2 tab.

Stay on top of the latest news, resources, and government guidance on the coronavirus outbreak by visiting TMA’s COVID-19 Resource Center regularly.

Last Updated On

July 28, 2020

Originally Published On

July 28, 2020

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David Doolittle

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Dave Doolittle is editor of Texas Medicine and Texas Medicine Today. Dave grew up in Austin, where he attended culinary school as well as the University of Texas. He spent years covering Central Texas for the Austin American-Statesman newspaper. He is the father of two girls, a proud Longhorn, and an avid motorsports fan.

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