March 23, 2023

Keeping Media and Government Accountable.

Misleading ‘highest COVID death rate’ claim is just KDHE reporting issue

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Today’s Wichita Eagle story about Kansas having the highest COVID death rate in the nation last week is just another reporting failure by mainstream media and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment – as evidenced by KDHE’s own data.

The Eagle referenced a White House/CDC report identifying Kansas as having the highest COVID death rate but failed to mention that their data is based on when states report deaths rather than when deaths occur.  Media also knows KDHE routinely reports deaths that occurred in prior months because KDHE admitted as much after the Sentinel caught Governor Kelly trying to mislead Kansans.

KDHE reported 331 COVID deaths for the week ended January 4, but their chart showing when deaths occurred (see the Death Summary tab here) only attributes 29 deaths to that 7-day period.  Put differently, 91% of the deaths reported last week occurred in previous weeks or months.

The week ended December 28 was pretty close – 104 deaths occurred (so far) and 100 deaths reported – but the week ended December 21 was similar to last week, with 339 deaths reported by KDHE but only 129 deaths occurred during that 7-day period.

Many of the deaths reported in December appear to have occurred in November and prior months.

During the weeks ended November 9 through November 30, KDHE reported 514 deaths, but as of January 4, their chart shows 833 deaths occurred during the period; so far, KDHE underreported deaths by 319 in November.  And so far, KDHE’s chart shows they underreported deaths by 78 for the weeks ended October 5 through November 2.

Other KDHE reporting issues

KDHE says another reporting issue is the reason Kansas has the slowest COVID-19 vaccination rollout in the nation.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that on Monday, KDHE and others offering excuses for the state’s poor showing on vaccine distribution say the CDC reporting system is merely experiencing a lag in getting out up-to-date numbers, saying that training for providers on using the reporting system was lacking.

But the Cap-Journal says KDHE’s excuse doesn’t track with health officials’ experience, writing, “…by and large, groups representing local health departments, hospitals and federally qualified health centers said they hadn’t received reports from their members of widespread struggles in reporting data to the CDC. There didn’t appear to be large-scale issues reported on training providers in the system either, making it unclear where the lag is coming from.”

At the very least, when national reports make KDHE and the Kelly administration look bad, they say it’s a reporting issue.  But when national reports can be used to scare Kansans, they don’t mention that it’s really just a reporting issue.

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