The number of U.S. deaths relating to the coronavirus crossed 65,000 as of Saturday morning but it could be off by “tens of thousands” according to some experts.
ABC News reports experts like Dr. Daniel Lopez-Acuna, an epidemiologist and retired top World Health Organization official of more than 30 years, said the reported figure is likely much lower than the actual number of coronavirus-related deaths.
“Under-counting deaths in this particular epidemic is happening all over,” he said. “It’s almost inevitable.”
According to Dr. Alex Williamson of the College of American Pathologists, the importance of collecting correct data on the global pandemic will help experts see its actual impact and help them determine what could be done to prevent such an incident from occurring in the future.
“We need to have the testing available because the big question now with COVID-19 is the denominator — of anything,” Williamson said via the report. “How many people get it? How many people recover? How many are hospitalized? How many died? We don’t know the true denominator. More testing is the most important thing we need to do.”
ABC News adds:
Calculating the precise number of COVID-19 deaths is remarkably complicated for a number of reasons. But leading epidemiologists, pathologists, medical examiners, medical history professors and local, state, federal and global health officials told ABC News that more testing is the single most important factor in determining an accurate national death count.
Ongoing testing kit shortages in cities and states nationwide means that only clearly symptomatic patients are currently being tested in many places. There also is no uniform national system in the U.S. for investigating deaths, and until two weeks ago, the U.S. was only counting Americans who lab-tested positive, before or after death, for COVID-19.
Left out of the tally are people who died without being tested and those who died at home or some other non-healthcare facilities before they could seek medical care.
Dr. Sally Aiken, president of the National Association of Medical Examiners, described collecting accurate data in real-time as “an extraordinary challenge.”
As the severity of the coronavirus pandemic has some doctors and medical personnel pushed to their limits in providing care for their patients, some patients that have died are being excluded from the total counts.
“There just isn’t really the infrastructure,” she added.