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County coroner talks concerns after death count revision

With the revision of COVID-19 deaths for the county back to zero, Lycoming County Coroner Charles E. Kiessling Jr. again expressed concerns regarding how the numbers are recorded during these unprecedented times.

“Those numbers are not coming out of my office,” he said. “I think that the frustration is that the law says that they (the deaths) should all be reported to coroners so we have track of who is dying.”

In addition to retracting the two deaths listed for Lycoming County, another 268 deaths from elsewhere in the state have been retracted in recent days, according to The Associated Press.

Dr. Rachel Levine, state Department of Health secretary, said those deaths initially were considered probable COVID-19 deaths, and they were removed from the count upon further investigation.

It is unclear whether the deaths listed for Lycoming County were among the probable COVID deaths eliminated upon further investigation or if they were removed for other reasons.

Though it is “great news” there are currently no reported deaths in the county, said Keissling, the way deaths are being tracked is confusing and needs to be reconsidered, as it is a public safety concern for those listening to the news conferences and those who have tested positive.

“From a public safety point, when we know the information, we can then help from continuing the spread. We can then quarantine family members and EMS or law enforcement, anyone who has had contact with the deceased. We can then make sure there are appropriate measures in place. It’s a public safety concern that we aren’t notified,” he said. “The Department of Health is logging the deaths differently than what we traditionally do. They are using the numbers as where they (the dead) are residing, not where they died. That is where the confusion lies.”

In this case, if someone has a previous address still attached to a legal document like a driver’s license and were tested positive and died in any other county, that person would be counted as a Lycoming County death.

He added that once someone is tested positive and no longer symptomatic for a number of days, they can go back to work and that numbers need to change as many who were tested positive were tested months ago according to Kiessling.

“We should be looking at statistics several ways,” he said. “We are looking at that they tested positive, but are they symptomatic right now? When did they test positive? Are they infectious? I think there needs to be some more work on the numbers.”

He added people also need to be aware of how many COVID-19 survivors there are, with numbers in the tens of thousands.

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