Over the past few month, Atascosa County has experienced many families grieving the loss of their loved ones due to COVID-19. The Pleasanton Express has published well over 50 obituaries in the month of January alone, with 23 of them being published in the Jan. 20 issue. This has led many to question the accuracy in the reporting of COVID-19 deaths in the county, however, the county is not responsible for the numbers of deaths reported as the figures are reported by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS).
On Monday evening, the total number of Atascosa County deaths from COVID 19 reflected a more accurate representation when it took its first big jump into the triple digits to 111 deaths. This was a significant leap from Friday, Jan. 29’s report of just 18. In July 2020, deaths were at four, not jumping to double digits until Aug. 13 when the total reached 10. COVID-19 deaths remained at 18 from Dec. 8 until Jan. 31.
So, what is the reason behind this huge jump in reported deaths?
Atascosa County EMS Director Don Penny received an update Monday afternoon to the Public Health Region 8 (PHR8) COVID-19 Case Reporting Procedure as follows:
Increases in counts of COVID-19-related deaths on this report are due to an update in Region 8 case processing reporting. As of Jan. 30, 2021, Region 8 will begin reporting COVID 19 related deaths using death certificate data where COVID-19 is listed as a cause of death. This update will bring the case counts reported by Region 8 into closer alignment with the counts that have been posted on the DSHS dashboard.
But why did it take so long for the death totals to update and who’s fault is it?
For starters, it is not Atascosa County’s fault for the inaccurate reporting of COVID-19 deaths. In fact, the county receives their daily COVID-19 report from Region 8, who in turn receives their information from DSHS.
Penny stated that back on Thursday, Jan. 21, he sent a message to DSHS asking when Atascosa County’s COVID-19 death totals were going to update to reflect the true numbers.
“I was told that DSHS had not been receiving data from providers in time to investigate the death certificates to update the report. They also informed me they would be sending an update in the near future from the Texas Vital Statistics, which we have now received,” said Penny. “So, our numbers should now be reflecting a more accurate report.”
As of press time on Tuesday evening, Atascosa County reported a total of 4,609 cases with 263 active, 4,235 recovered and 111 deaths. A mask mandate is in effect. The Pleasanton Express will continue to report on any future updates to the DSHS reporting of COVID 19 cases and deaths in Atascosa County.