Seven months into the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, state governments and media outlets continue to publicize confusing, misleading data on the spread of the disease here, perpetuating fears that deaths from the virus are skyrocketing on a daily basis even as those fatalities are generally distributed across a period of days, weeks or even months.
At issue is how state health departments publicize daily reports of fatalities within the state's borders. State health officials have for months been publishing two sets of mortality statistics: deaths that occurred on the publication date in question, and deaths that have only recently been catalogued from state backlogs.
The Arizona Department of Health Services publishes both of those figures on its coronavirus dashboard: On its "Summary" page, it lists the "number of new deaths reported today," while on its "Covid-19 Deaths" tab, the state lists the actual "deaths by date of death."
The distinction is a critical one: The state's "new deaths" every day do not actually reflect the number of coronavirus fatalities Arizona has logged in the past 24 hours, but rather the number of COVID-19 deaths it has identified from both new and older death certificates.
Health department spokeswoman Holly Poynter confirmed to Just the News on Friday that the state's "new deaths" figure is not drawn exclusively from the most recent 24-hour period of fatalities.
"While we had 91 new deaths reported today, the graph [on the dashboard] shows them by the actual date of death," she said on Friday. "Although those 91 were reported today, it doesn't mean today was the date of death. Those deaths may have occurred at any time on the graph but were simply reported today."