State won't clarify how Iowa counts COVID-19 deaths

This project started with the goal of clearing up some confusion surrounding Iowa’s novel coronavirus (COVID-19) death statistics.

Specifically, I wanted to debunk a conspiracy theory making the rounds on Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit.

I also planned to explain why the number of deaths for a given day on the state’s official website (coronavirus.iowa.gov) didn’t always match the number of new deaths that had been announced on that date. Many readers had asked about the discrepancy.

I was almost ready to publish in early July, but I needed to nail down one detail. Did the total fatalities on the state website (793 at this writing) reflect all of what the U.S. Centers for Disease Control describes as “multiple cause” COVID-19 deaths, or only what the CDC labels “underlying cause” deaths?

After asking that question more than half a dozen times over two and a half weeks, I still haven’t received an answer. So much for the Iowa Department of Public Health’s supposed “transparency” and “constant communication with media” on the pandemic.

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Ousted staffer pulls back curtain on Iowa's COVID-19 information blockade

“I am embarrassed and saddened by the way the media has been treated during COVID,” Polly Carver-Kimm wrote in an email to the Des Moines Register on July 15. “You are not receiving timely answers and you are getting scripted talking points when you do get an answer.”

Carver-Kimm discussed the state’s handling of press inquiries hours after being shown the door as communications director for the Iowa Department of Public Health.

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