The Pennsylvania Department of Health slashed the state’s COVID-19 death toll on Thursday by 201, saying probable deaths it had previously included in the count were eliminated after further investigation.
The overall death toll now stands at 1,421, down from 1,622 reported a day earlier.
The number of deaths confirmed by a positive virus test actually rose overnight by 69, to 1,394. But Health Secretary Rachel Levine said Thursday that 270 probable deaths that had been added to the death toll in recent days have been removed after further investigation.
“This verification process is very intensive and under normal circumstances it can take months to complete,” she said. “We continue to refine the data that we are collecting to provide everyone this information in as near time as we possibly can. This is really difficult with thousands of reports each day.”
State health officials had recently changed the way they count COVID-19 deaths — now including probable deaths along with confirmed deaths — which resulted in a doubling of the state’s death toll in just four days. A probable death is one in which a coroner or medical examiner listed COVID-19 as the cause or contributing cause, but the deceased was not tested for the virus.
Officials have said they are trying to reconcile data provided by hospitals, health care systems, county and municipal health departments and long-term care living facilities with the department’s own records. Some county coroners have accused the state Department of Health of botching the numbers.
Statewide, more than 1,369 additional people tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to more than 37,000, the health department reported Thursday.
Other coronavirus-related developments in Pennsylvania:
Pennsylvania’s health secretary said Thursday a state plan to do contact tracing to limit the impact of COVID-19 infection is in the works and will rely partly on volunteers.
Dr. Rachel Levine said much of the work will be done by public health nurses, along with county and municipal health departments, hospitals and health systems.
Levine said it will also use volunteers.
Contact tracing, which identifies the people that COVID-19 patients have been in contact with, locates those who may be infected so they can be tested and isolated.
Levine did not say when the plan will be released.
CURBSIDE LIQUOR SALES
Pennsylvania’s state-owned liquor stores have processed about 25,000 curbside orders since that program began on Monday, for sales totaling about $2.3 million, the agency said.
The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board said Thursday that its online order system also continues to expand its reach, from about 4,000 orders a day last week to more than 33,000 daily since Saturday, with five-day sales of more than $3 million.
More than 100 of the agency’s nearly 600 stores are currently filling online orders for delivery as well as curbside orders by appointment.
The online ordering system has been able to meet just a fraction of the public demand in Pennsylvania, where the stores retail nearly all hard liquor and much of the wine. Before the COVID-19 shutdown, the liquor stores handled about 180,000 transactions a day.