Starting Wednesday, the Minnesota Department of Health will make updates to its coronavirus data page that will for the first time include "probable" deaths from COVID-19.
Up to now, the MDH Situation Page has only included data on deaths in which a diagnosis of COVID-19 has been confirmed via a test and the virus is listed by doctors, physician's assistants, or registered nurses on the patient's death certificates.
But on Tuesday, Director of MDH Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Prevention and Control Kris Ehresmann announced that the department will also start listing deaths in which no test was carried out on a patient, but physicians list COVID-19 as "probable," "suspected" or "possible" on death certificates based on their symptoms.
This figure will be listed separately from the confirmed death number, which currently stands at 614 in Minnesota.
The CDC has previously advised medical professionals that they can list COVID-19 as a "probable" or "possible" cause of a patient's death "if the circumstances are compelling within a reasonable degree of certainty," which is a common practice during major disasters such as hurricanes.
When a death certificate is submitted listing COVID-19 as "probable," MDH staff check back with the doctor to see if the patient had received a test for the coronavirus, as in some cases test results may be pending. If a test then comes back positive, it is added to the confirmed COVID-19 deaths total.
It's one of several additions being made to the data page, which has grown considerably since the pandemic arrived here.
The MDH also says it will be clarifying its data for "patients no longer needing isolation."
Ehresmann notes that this number, which currently stands at 8,223, includes patients who are no longer sick from COVID-19, but also those who have died from it.
Regarding case numbers, MDH will also start including cases that have "fallen off the list," having initially been reported as a positive case, but have since changed because either the patient isn't actually from Minnesota, because it was a false positive, or because it's a duplicate record.
Since the outbreak in Minnesota, Ehresmann says just under 70 cases have "fallen off" and have been removed from case totals, but for the first time these figures will be treated separately.