A Colorado man who died of alcohol poisoning had his death classified as due to the coronavirus, possibly shedding light on a skewed virus death toll in the state, according to a report on Thursday. Sebastian Yellow, 35, was found dead by police on May 4. Montezuma County Coroner George Deavers later determined that his death was due to acute alcohol poisoning. His blood-alcohol content measured in at .55. The legal limit in the state is .08. But before Deavers signed the death certificate, Colorado health officials reportedly categorized Yellow’s death as being due to COVID-19. “They should have to be recording the same way I do. They have to go off the truth and facts and list it as such,” said Deavers, according to Denver’s KCNC-TV. Back in April, health officials in Colorado classified three nursing home fatalities as COVID-19 deaths, even though attending physicians ruled they were not related to the coronavirus. While Yellow later tested positive for COVID-19, Deavers said his death had nothing to do with the coronavirus. “It wasn’t COVID, it was alcohol toxicity,” said Deavers, according to the station.”Yes, he did have COVID but that is not what took his life.” The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment released a statement to KCNC-TV on how they classify COVID-19 related deaths. “We classify a death as confirmed when there was a case who had a positive SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) laboratory test and then died. We also classify some deaths as probable,” the statement said. “The gist is that there must be strong epidemiological evidence of COVID-19 such as a combination of close contact with a confirmed case and symptoms of COVID-19. We will also count a death as a COVID-19 death when there is no known positive laboratory test but the death certificate lists ‘COVID-19’ as a cause of death.” Dr. Deborah Birx, the response coordinator for the White House coronavirus task force, said in April the federal government was classifying the deaths of patients infected with the coronavirus as COVID-19 deaths, regardless of any underlying health issues that could have contributed to the loss of someone’s life. “There are other countries that if you had a pre-existing condition, and let’s say the virus caused you to go to the ICU [intensive care unit] and then have a heart or kidney problem,” she said during a news briefing at the White House. “Some countries are recording that as a heart issue or a kidney issue and not a COVID-19 death.” Classification instances like that of Yellow’s could mean the virus is overcounted, although some doctors and officials believe the reality is the opposite due to other reasons. During Dr. Anthony Fauci’s testimony before the Senate on Tuesday, he said undercounting could result from people who died at their home from the virus, but weren’t counted or tested because they never reached the hospital. “I think you are correct that the number is likely higher,” Fauci said in response to a question from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, according to the Washington Post.“I don’t know exactly what percent higher, but almost certainly it’s higher.” Fauci wouldn’t speculate on if the numbers were 50 percent higher than the current U.S. death toll. However, he said that “most of us feel that the number of deaths are likely higher than that number.” There are more than 1,417,889 confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S., while at least 85,000 people have died from the virus as of Friday morning, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
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