GRANTS PASS, Ore. — A 30-year-old woman who died from an illness in November after testing positive for coronavirus will be counted among Josephine County's COVID-19 related deaths based on the Oregon Health Authority's standards, public health officials said on Wednesday.
Josephine County Public Health said that the woman tested positive for COVID-19 on November 17 and died ten days later at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center. She was suffering from an acute illness "unrelated to COVID-19" and had elected comfort care.
"While the woman’s attending physician did not indicate that COVID-19 contributed to the woman’s death, OHA’s procedures require this to be counted as a COVID-19 death for Josephine County," county officials said. "OHA follows national infectious disease reporting standards when reporting COVID-19-related deaths."
According to Josephine County, anyone with a positive COVID-19 test result who dies within 14 days in the hospital or within 60 days following discharge from the hospital is considered a coronavirus death.
The reasoning for this policy stems from the wide-ranging impacts of coronavirus — many of which are still largely mysterious — which can have effects on an individual's health that can complicate their recovery from other diseases and conditions, indirectly contributing to their death. OHA uses this data to track the spread of the disease and hone steps for stopping its spread, Josephine County said.
“We understand why the OHA has adopted this straightforward, objective approach to classifying COVID-19-related deaths,” said Mike Weber, Josephine County Public Health director. “Public health agencies look at health data on the population level, and this definition is logical for a statewide organization. However, at the local level we are able to provide a higher level of detail, and in the interest of transparency, Josephine County will now maintain two totals relating to COVID-19 patients who have died.”
Weber said that the first total will mirror OHA's definition of coronavirus-related deaths, including anyone who has died in close proximity to a positive COVID-19 test. The second total will include only deaths that Josephine County Public Health has judged to be immediately related to a COVID-19 infection.
According to those totals, this is the first such borderline case that Josephine County has logged. As of Wednesday, the county reported 30 coronavirus-related deaths, and 29 deaths resulting from a COVID-19 infection.