INVESTIGATION: Number of COVID-19 deaths reported in Houston was inaccurate for weeks

City Health Department exploring undocumented coronavirus death

HOUSTON – For days, Houston officials, including Mayor Sylvester Turner, touted the relatively low death totals tied to coronavirus in the Houston area. KPRC 2 Investigates confirmed Wednesday that the city numbers on coronavirus-related deaths were off. As of Wednesday, the number of coronavirus-related deaths reported in Houston stands at 12.

One resident, Jina, said flaunting a low death court is concerning. She asked to be identified only by her first name.

"It's not a bragging contest of how few deaths," she said. "We want to be honest. We want to be transparent. We need to know how bad it really is out there."

Jina says she knows for a fact that the death total has been inaccurate for several days because her father’s death was never reported by the city.

"There is a disconnect somewhere in the reporting," Jina said.

Jina said her father, who passed away on March 27, was a COVID-19 victim, but city officials have not counted his death.

Jina said seven days before her father’s death, all was well. He had underlying health conditions, but respiratory issues suddenly developed and his health deteriorated.

"He was on a ventilator on Tuesday, and then they took him off the ventilator beginning Friday," she said.

Jina’s father’s death certificate lists that he died of coronavirus-related complications. KPRC 2 Investigates sent the death certificate to the Houston Health Department Tuesday. At that time, officials said they did not have any deaths to match his description.

For nearly two weeks since his death, the reported coronavirus-related deaths in Houston has been off by at least one, Jina said.

"Get the facts. We want the facts," said Jina.

Since being alerted to Jina’s father’s death by KPRC 2, the city has begun investigating.

"This disease is a big Scarlet 'C' for some people. We've suffered a lot in this family, and we just want what's right," Jina said.

Dr. David Persse, with the Houston Health Department, thanked KPRC 2 for uncovering the March death. He said city officials are working to confirm the case with a potential announcement Thursday.

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