| Journal Star
Plenty of claims are made online, by email and through social media each day about COVID-19. We asked Peoria County Coroner Jamie Harwood for answers on some of the most persistent claims that have appeared from Journal Star commenters.
Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
Question: Does the state or local government really “make money” off of deaths classified as being from COVID-19?
Answer: This is a long answer for a short question. Hospitals function off of icd10 codes. Those code are associates with diseases and diagnosis. Those diseases and diagnosis are afforded a certain dollar amount through their pay sources (insurance, Medicare, things like that).
If I come into the hospital with a congestive heart failure, that is given a code and a certain parameter of a dollar amount that is covered for that particular diagnosis. Documentation from the hospital needs to support that diagnosis and the treatment, up to that certain dollar amount. After that dollar amount it is up to the hospital to make up that difference. Those dollar amounts are all different based upon what theoretically it is going to take for you be to there by your pay sources like Medicare or private insurance. So, yes, they are given a dollar amount for your diagnosis and treatment, but it is limited. But I don’t know things work on the state and local governmental level.
Question: What about the claim that people are being COVID-tested after they die, elevating positive numbers?
Answer: We don’t perform COVID testing on people here at our morgue unless they have a symptom that was related. When we are doing an autopsy, we can look at the physical picture of the lungs in real time; we can also do pathology on the tissue cells. Unless we see something obscure to abnormal, we are not going to send them for a COVID test unless it is related to the history that led to their eventual demise.
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Question: What counts as a COVID death? Another pervasive claim online is that if you die in a car crash but they find you had COVID, and then it’s counted as a coronavirus death.
Answer: That’s not correct. Unless you are driving to the hospital, you are short of breath, you can’t breathe or you’re coughing and you drive off the road and pass away from your accident. Then we have to consider COVID as a contributing cause of the accident. That’s an extreme situation that we have not had here in Peoria County.
If you are, generally speaking, in a car accident and from that car accident it leads to your eventual demise, and you incidentally test positive for COVID, it will not be counted because it is not contributing to your terminal condition.
Question: So if you are shot and you wind up having COVID, that, too, would also not count?
Answer: Yes, that is correct. It is irreverent to the terminal cause of death.