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COVID Death Count In Massachusetts Decreases By 3,700 After State Updates Definition

BOSTON (CBS) – The number of people who have died from COVID-19 in Massachusetts will decrease by 3,700 after the state adjusted its definition of what classifies as a death caused by the disease.

Starting Monday, the Department of Public Health will adjust its definition for identifying COVID deaths in an effort to align with guidance from the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists.

The state said currently the COVID death definition includes anyone who has the disease listed as a cause of death on their death certificate. It also includes anyone who had a diagnosis within 60 days but did not have it listed as a cause on their death certificate.

Under the new definition, the timeframe is changed to 30 days for people without a COVID diagnosis on their death certificate.

The change is being applied retroactively to March 2020. A total of 4,081 deaths in Massachusetts previously counted as associated with COVID will no longer be counted. About 400 deaths that were not previously counted will be added.

The result is the state's death total will decline by 3,700. As of Wednesday, the state had reported 22,944 deaths, a number that will now be decreasing.

"It is important to understand that we cannot identify all COVID-19 deaths with 100 percent accuracy," said Nicolas Menzies, associate professor of global health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. "The revised definition for COVID-19 deaths is a reasonable balance between sensitivity and specificity and will make it easier to compare Massachusetts death data with data from other jurisdictions."

Massachusetts health officials are also making additional changes to the state's COVID dashboard starting on Monday.

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