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Colorado amends coronavirus death count - says fewer have died of COVID-19 than previously reported

Colorado has made a stunning and significant change to the way it counts COVID-19 deaths that reduced the statewide figure from more than 1,000 to 878, according to a report.

The change came after Colorado’s Department of Public Health admitted that its COVID-19 death toll was counting those who tested positive for the coronavirus but had died of other causes, Fox 31 Denver reported late Friday.

The department now says 1,150 Coloradoans who died had COVID-19 but only 878 of those deaths were “due to” COVID-19.

“We have been reporting at the state, deaths among people who had COVID-19 at the time of death and the cause of that death may or may not have been COVID-19,” Dr. Eric France, the health department's chief medical officer told the station.

“We started to hear stories about ‘are these correct or are these incorrect?'” France said.

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Fox News on Friday reported on one of those stories as part of a report that found that the hodgepodge way states counted COVID-19 deaths was a reason why some people believe the U.S. COVID-19 death figure was exaggerated.

The story involved a 35-year-old man from Montezuma County who died May 4 of alcohol poisoning but whose death was counted in Colorado’s COVID-19 death toll.

“The state is reporting that death as a COVID death, but our health department wanted to let people know that even though the person did have the virus, they did not die from it,” the Montezuma County Health Department said about the man's death.

The national COVID-19 death toll climbed to 87,568 Saturday with the deaths of 1,662 more people due to the virus, John Hopkins University data showed. But that latest number does not take into account Colorado's amended figure, listing the death toll at 1,150.

France blamed the confusion on the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System that states use to report COVID-19 deaths to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

RELATED: Pennsylvania revises coronavirus death toll, excludes probable cases

Hours before the health department lowered the death count a somber Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, had told a coronavirus news briefing that the state had reached a “reflection point” as the number of COVID-19 deaths had surpassed 1,000.

"It's important to remember that every number has a name," Polis said. "It's easy to say over 1,000 people. Each one of those is a person with friends, loved ones and family. If you’re fortunate enough not to have known someone who was lost, take a moment and remember why we all need to do our part."

Fox 31 obtained a statement from Polis’ office after the death count was reduced that said the governor fully supported efforts by the health department to specify how many deaths were specifically due to COVID-19 “and not just specific to CDC guidelines that include people who died with Coronavirus but not necessarily from it.”

“State epidemiologists believe that once the data is up to date then the number will, unfortunately, be higher,” the statement concluded.

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