By Karen Morfitt

DENVER (CBS4)– Officials with Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment admit the way they have been reporting the number of COVID-19 deaths is confusing.

“A death is reported here as a case among a person who was infected with COVID-19, it doesn’t make a judgment on whether or not COVID-19 caused that death,” said Dr. Rachel Herlihy, the State Epidemiologist.

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The clarification comes after CBS4 investigator Brian Maass reported on concerns from doctors at a nursing home in Centennial who said deaths they determined were not due to coronavirus were reclassified.

Another case in Cortez, Colorado where the Montezuma County Coroner determined a man’s death was caused by alcohol poisoning, he says was then reported as a COVID-19 death by the state.

In each of those cases there was a positive test for COVID-19, which state health officials say under a national tracking system would need to be included in total number of deaths.

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“These are standardizing criteria that allows us to ensure that we are comparing apples to apples from one state so that a case in Colorado is the same as case in Nebraska,” Dr. Herlihy said.

At his weekly COVID-19 update, Gov. Jared Polis addressed concerns about the numbers and said he would be directing the state health department to change its method for reporting.

“I’m going to make sure they do that in a way that engenders the full confidence of the people of Colorado,” he said.

In doing so, Colorado’s total number of deaths due to coronavirus dropped from over 1,000 to around 878 on Friday afternoon.

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State health officials like Kirk Bol, the manager of vital statistics, hope the change will dispel any belief that they are attempting to inflate the numbers.

“We do not change death certificates and have not changed death certificates,” Bol said.

Karen Morfitt