COVID Omitted on Death Certificates Brings Families More Pain (Video)

To date, more than 390,000 Americans have succumbed to COVID-19.

As of Saturday, there are 23,644,885 confirmed cases in the United States.

By the time you read this, it will be much higher, as officials warn we could experience another 92,000 deaths in under a month.

But the actual numbers are likely higher.

More Americans are dying of COVID-19 than at any time since the pandemic first arrived at our shores last March.

But many of those Americans dying from COVID-19-related complications like lung, heart, and organ damage are being issued death certificates that make no mention of COVID.

This can lead to their surviving family members being denied death benefits and other COVID relief.

An example is Pentecostal Bishop Bruce Davis, who died in April after being hospitalized.

His wife, Gwendolyn, reported receiving the death certificate that listed her husband’s cause of death as sepsis and renal failure.

She explained:

“He wouldn’t have had kidney failure if he didn’t have Covid.”

That omission cost her when Gwendolyn applied to and was denied two pandemic relief programs to help defray $1,500 in missed car and electricity payments.

Then there’s Bruce’s employer, Mark DeLong, who succumbed to COVID despite his death certificate stating he suffered from “cardiopulmonary arrest, respiratory failure and diabetes.”

95-year-old Dorothy Payton died in April at ManorCare nursing home in Denver, Colo. five days after first showing COVID symptoms.

Documentation states, however, she suffered from “vascular dementia, atrial fibrillation, congestive heart failure, gait instability, difficulty swallowing and ‘failure to thrive’.”

The Guardian reported:

“When Covid patients die, the ‘immediate’ cause of death is always something else, such as respiratory failure or cardiac arrest. Residents, doctors, medical examiners and coroners make the call on whether Covid-19 was an underlying factor, or ‘contributory cause’. If so, the diagnosis should be included on the death certificate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).”

The CDC urges agencies responsible for issuing death certificates to families of those with COVID to note “probable” or “likely” COVID as contributing to deaths.

Yet some are still reluctant to do this.

According to the CDC, only 68% of possible COVID-related deaths have been attributed to the virus.

Yale School of Public Health epidemiologist Daniel Weinberger explained:

“[These excess deaths] tend to track pretty closely with COVID cases, trailing by a couple of weeks. This strongly suggests that a large proportion of these uncounted deaths are due to COVID but not recorded as such.”

Then there are “long-haulers” who survive the disease but must live with the lingering damage.

Family medicine doctor Christopher Babiuch explained:

“We’re now seeing a percentage of patients whose symptoms seem to be lasting a while. This is challenging because everyone’s needs are so unique. We’re finding that collaborating as a team between different specialists helps to manage and support these patients, but there’s a lot that we just don’t know yet.”

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) recently released a report indicating patients with “long Covid” may experience four distinct simultaneous syndromes.

The report’s lead author, Dr. Elaine Maxwell, said:

“We believe that the term long Covid is being used as a catch-all for more than one syndrome, possibly up to four, and that the lack of distinction between these syndromes may explain the challenges people are having in being believed and accessing services.”

NIHR identified four patient subsets.

First are those recovering from intensive care too weak to sit, lift their arms, speak, or swallow, whose conditions may be contributing to depression and post-traumatic stress.

Then there are those with aching muscles, mental fog, and fatigue not unlike that those with chronic fatigue syndrome experience.

Then there’s organ damage.

Breathlessness, persistent coughing, and racing pulse could be symptoms of lingering lung or heart damage.

recent study discovered that six weeks after leaving the hospital about half of COVID patients still experienced difficulty breathing.

At 12 weeks, it was 39%.

About a third of patients–even those with mild infections–sustained heart damage.

MRI scans of 100 patients found abnormal structural heart alterations, a separate study concluded.

Finally, there are patients with fluctuating symptoms that travel throughout the body.

The NIHR report documents patients’ symptoms manifesting in one physiological system, then waning before appearing in another system.

A “long COVID” support group member survey found 70% of “long-haulers” experienced symptom fluctuations; 89% experienced an intensity.

After the vaccine was approved for mass distribution, there was hope this nightmare would soon be over.

But the vaccine rollout has been an embarrassing failure.

Still, doctors are optimistic, not in the vaccine, but in human behaviors practiced to limited contact and spread.

Johns Hopkins University assistant professor Caitlin Rivers said:

“My hope is this month will be the peak and things will start to look better in February. I don’t think it will be vaccination that will bend the curve. It will be washing your hands and staying home.”

There is more hope on the horizon when we consider that in four days there will be in the White House an administration with a cohesive coronavirus relief and recovery plan.

In a nationally televised speech on Thursday, President-Elect Joe Biden laid out a $1.9 trillion blueprint for “changing the course of the pandemic.”

That blueprint includes $160 billion for increased vaccination, testing, and health programs; $350 billion for state and local governments; and $1 trillion in direct payments and unemployment insurance relief to families.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) tweeted:

Since the virus is creating millions of new pre-existing conditions, and Democrats will control both houses of Congress and the White House, it is time to pass a Medicare-for-All-type single-payer national healthcare system.

Image credit: Tasnim News

Ted Millar is writer and teacher. His work has been featured in myriad literary journals, including Better Than Starbucks, The Broke Bohemian, Straight Forward Poetry, Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, Third Wednesday, and The Voices Project. He is also a contributor to The Left Place blog on Substack, and Medium.