9/19/20: DARE COUNTY MAN HOSPITALIZED WITH COVID-19 DIES; DCDHHS SAYS VIRUS DID NOT CAUSE DEATH. Plus Facial Coverings, Distancing Protect Against Flu, Too.

A local man recently hospitalized after testing positive for COVID-19 has died, according to a report yesterday by the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services, which has classified the fatality as a non-COVID death.

Although the DCDHHS report gives no identifying details about the person who died, other than that he was hospitalized, it is clear from data posted online that he was a Dare County resident who was age 65 or older.

Based on the skimpy public-health data provided by DCDHHS, we surmise that the deceased person was a resident of Peak Resources, the long-term care facility in Nags Head that recently confirmed an outbreak of COVID-19. (See The Beacon, 9/17/20.)

In its announcement of the man’s death, the DCDHHS cited the State of North Carolina’s COVID-19 “Associated Death Case Definition” to the effect that a COVID-19-associated death, for surveillance purposes, is one “resulting from a clinically compatible illness that was confirmed to be COVID-19 by an appropriate laboratory test.”

There must be “no period of complete recovery between the date of COVID-19 diagnosis and the date of death,” it states.

Further quoting the associated death case definition, the report says that a death should not be reported as a COVID-19 death if any of the following are true:

  1. “There is no laboratory or other diagnostic confirmation of SARS-CoV-2 virus infection.
  2. “Novel coronavirus illness is followed by full recovery to baseline health status prior to death.
  3. “After review and consultation there is an alternative agreed upon cause of death.

It is often the case that people who die from COVID-19 have co-morbidities, which are pre-existing pathological or disease processes unrelated to COVID-19, such as diabetes and heart or lung disease. 

It seems to us that if the deceased man would not have been hospitalized BUT FOR his COVID-19 infection and would not have died last week BUT FOR that infection that his death was COVID-19-associated. But we know law better than we know pathology.

In any case, we find the language of the third exception about an “alternative agreed upon cause of death” to be so vague, imprecise, and discretionary as to be easily subject to abuse.  

There currently are eight active COVID-19 cases among Dare County residents, all of whom are in isolation.

SOME GOOD NEWS . . . MASKS THWART FLU TRANSMISSION, TOO.

Southern Hemisphere countries, which experience the annual influenza season earlier than Northern Hemisphere countries, such as the United States, have reported a mild 2020 flu season, which is just wrapping up now.

The flu season starts in the Southern Hemisphere in May and peaks in July and August, when countries there experience the height of their winter. According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, Southern Hemisphere public-health authorities this year have reported the least number of flu cases in “recent memory.”

“They almost . . . call it an absent flu season,” the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said Thursday. “They’re not sure why this is the case, but the evidence strongly suggests that all the precautions they were taking to avoid COVID during their winter—namely masks, physical separation, avoiding crowds, washing hands—very well may have averted a flu season.”

The experience of Southern Hemisphere countries has long served as a preview of the influenza season that Northern Hemisphere countries can expect. Among other benefits, it enables vaccine manufacturers to target prevalent strains of influenza.

Dr. Fauci has warned previously of a “double whammy” in the United States of flu on top of COVID-19—but this may not turn out to be the case.

Naturally, the infectious disease specialist cautioned Americans not to let the encouraging news from the Southern Hemisphere lull them into complacency. He urged people to get a flu vaccine and to continue wearing their facial coverings, practicing physical distancing, and washing their hands.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 9/19/20

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