Texas’ count of virus deaths jumps 12% after state changes the way it tallies coronavirus fatalities

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AUSTIN, Texas – Texas reported an increase of nearly 700 additional deaths from the COVID-19 virus due to a change in how the state collects fatality data, representing a grim surge in the state's fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

The new figures released Monday show the state now with 5,713 COVID-19-identified fatalities in Texas, compared with 5,038 reported Sunday. The new figures include 44 new deaths reported Monday.

Texas had seen a dramatic spike in newly confirmed cases, hospitalizations and fatalities over the past month and Gov. Greg Abbott had warned the results could be jarring.

State health officials said the new death totals are compiled by using the cause of death listed on death certificates, instead of waiting for local and regional public health authorities to report them to the state. Death certificates are required by law to be filed within 10 days.

“This method allows fatalities to be counted faster with more comprehensive demographic data. Using death certificates also ensures consistent reporting across the state and enables DSHS to display fatalities by date of death, providing the public with more information about when deaths occurred,” the agency said in a statement.

Only deaths directly attributed to the COVID-19 virus are counted. This method does not include deaths of people who had COVID-19 but died of an unrelated cause, the agency said.

On Monday, state health officials reported 4,267 newly confirmed cases. Texas also reported nearly 10,000 hospitalizations but said lags in reporting from hospitals may keep that number lower than it really is.

The true number of cases in Texas is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.