Brain Hayes (pictured), Macon County Coroner, admitted to the KC Star that he removed COVID-19 from death certificates. The coroner, an elected Republican, was arrested for DWI in 2018. Pictured: Hayes’ mugshot of the arrest
A small Missouri county may be under-represented by COVID-19 as the virus is removed from some death certificates as the cause of death.
Brian Hayes, a medical examiner for Macon County — home to 15,000 residents — told the Kansas City Star that he has ruled out the coronavirus at the request of family members.
The Kansas City Star reports that up to a dozen potential COVID-19 deaths have been underestimated by Hayes and that the death toll of 19 could be 30 or higher.
While small, Macon County is addressing a larger ongoing problem in the way Missouri records COVID-19 deaths, including failure to count cases missing a positive PCR test in official death counts.
Hayes, a Republican elected to office, told the Star he would replace the deaths on some certificates with pneumonia or some other symptom of the virus rather than COVID itself.
The action is not illegal except in the case of a criminal investigation, although it is frowned upon.
However, he only did it because he could see another important factor as a role in the person’s cause of death.
“Many families were upset. They didn’t want COVID on the death certificates,” Hayes said.
‘I won’t lie for them. It must be true, but I do what the family wants.’
Deaths in Missouri can be underestimated statewide.
In total, the state has recorded 10,000 COVID deaths, although the figure is likely to be even higher.
A person who tests positive for COVID-19 through a rapid antigen test and never undergoes a PCR test — which takes days for results to be returned — before dying is not counted as a COVID-19 death by official totals.
Antigen tests account for about 25 percent of COVID-19 tests conducted in the state, according to official data.
Missouri has been criticized for this decision, for which it is one of the few states to do so.
Missouri cases plummet again after massive surge in June and July
In general, coroners in Missouri have had trouble properly recording deaths, with an analysis finding that nearly half of deaths in the state misreported in 2017.
Hayes said families who asked him were often traumatized by the virus and didn’t want to see the word “COVID” on a death certificate.
It is not the first time the coroner has been involved in controversy.
In 2018 Hayes . was charged with felony driving under the influence after crashing his car in downtown Macon.
No one was injured in the crash.
The coroner’s revelation comes as Missouri recovers from a massive COVID-19 surge in recent months.
The number of cases rose from about 300 new infections per day in early June to more than 2,600 cases per day in late July.
However, things are now moving in the right direction, as the average number of new cases per day has fallen to around 2,300 and is likely to fall even more in the coming days.
Macon County remained in the single-digit daily case average throughout the increase and has remained at that level since March.
Across the country, deaths may be underestimated.
One analysis by the University of Washington from May predicted that the actual death toll in the United States at the time could be as high as 900,000.
As of now, 614,000 COVID-19 deaths have been officially recorded out of more than 35 million cases – both the highest totals in the world.
Some predict that the crisis in the country is likely to get worse. dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, expects the number of cases to rise to 200,000 a day in the coming weeks before declining.