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San Antonio

San Antonio's Metro Health Reports 53 COVID-19 Deaths, Addresses Discrepancy With State Numbers

A hearse is parked outside of a funeral home in San Antonio early April 2020.
Dominic Anthony Walsh | Texas Public Radio
A hearse is parked outside of a funeral home in San Antonio early April 2020.

This post has been updated. It was originally published on Tuesday, Aug. 11, at 5:47 p.m.

Officials from San Antonio’s Metropolitan Health District reported 53 deaths related to COVID-19 stemming back from July 6 to July 24. That number is more than double the previous single-day record. 

In addition to the delayed reports, the city also announced 11 additional deaths on Tuesday.

The total of number of Bexar County coronavirus-related deaths now, according to Metro Health, is 519. But the Texas’ Department of State Health Services has reported a total of 806 deaths in Bexar County. That’s a difference of 287 people.

The 53 new deaths are part of that discrepancy in reporting for Bexar County. According to Mayor Ron Nirenberg, the discrepancy in death toll comes down to two things:

“It’s a matter of both timing, because the state gets the information before we do locally, and of the different standards for reporting,” Nirenberg said.

Made with Flourish

TPR’s bioscience and medicine reporter Bonnie Petrie said the state changed its process a few weeks ago.

“It makes the timing better, that information gets out quicker and it's more consistent across the state. So the state started counting death certificates that had COVID listed on the death certificate, and they get that information really quickly,” she said.

But Metro Health investigates deaths individually.

Metro Health’s confirmed death toll comprises cases that have gone through a postmortem investigation by Metro Health. The investigation ensures that the deceased person was a Bexar County resident and that COVID-19 was the cause of death — including testing for COVID-19 postmortem, even if the patient hadn’t been diagnosed.

The investigation takes about 10 days, Petrie said.  Right now officials list 265 deaths as "under investigation." 

Death toll has become a significant data point for Metro Health in determining the city’s progress in the pandemic. The number of confirmed deaths of Bexar County residents has more than tripled in the last month.

This is not the first time the county and state’s data have not lined up. DSHS reports a smaller number of total cases than Metro Health, which the city says is also due to a difference in standards. Metro Health reports confirmed cases (which have a positive molecular test result) and probable cases (symptomatic cases that have a positive antigen test result).

Kathleen Creedon can be reached at kathleen@tpr.org or on Twitter at @Kath_Creedon.

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