Colorado's coronavirus death toll dropped significantly on Friday after the Colorado Department of Health and Environment made a major change in how state officials report COVID-19 deaths.
State officials are now distinguishing between people who died "with COVID-19" and those who died "due to COVID-19." Previously, officials lumped all the deaths together, meaning people who had COVID-19, yet did not die directly from the virus, were included in the state's official death count.
The change resulted in nearly 300 fewer COVID-19 deaths in Colorado, KDVR-TV reported.
On Friday afternoon, the Colorado Department of Health reported 1,150 COVID-19 deaths. But after the change, that count dropped to 878.
"We have been reporting at the state, deaths among people who had COVID-19 at the time of death and the cause of that death may or may not have been COVID-19," Dr. Eric France, Colorado Health Department's chief medical officer, said Friday, according to KDVR.
"We started to hear stories about 'are these correct or are these incorrect?'" he explained.
COVID-19 death counts have received increased scrutiny over the last month as the national death count continues to increase by an average of 1,000-2,000 deaths per day.
Frustration over COVID-19 death classification boiled over in Colorado this week after state officials included the death of 35-year-old Sebastian Yellow as a COVID-19 death.
However, Colorado's Montezuma County coroner, George Deavers, determined that Yellow had died from alcohol poisoning, having a blood alcohol content of .55 at the time of his death, which is over the lethal limit.
"It wasn't COVID, it was alcohol toxicity," Deavers said. "Yes, he did have COVID, but that is not what took his life."