Gov. Charlie Baker said Wednesday that he generally agrees with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control that COVID-19 deaths are probably being undercounted in the hardest hit states, including Massachusetts.
Officially, 3,153 people have died of COVID-19 in Massachusetts and the first death was reported on March 20. New data released late Tuesday by the CDC suggested the number of people who died of all causes was roughly 50% higher than normal from March 8 through April 11 in seven states including Massachusetts.
Asked about the CDC data Wednesday, Baker said public health officials in Massachusetts have begun the work of determining whether any deaths prior to the one reported on March 20 should be attributed to the virus.
"I think most people believe that COVID-19 death rates are probably undercounted because it was here — well, it was in a lot of places — before people truly understood and appreciated what it was," the governor said. "People have gone back and started to do some work to try and figure out if there are cases where people presented with what would have been deemed as COVID-19 type symptoms and possibly were categorized in some other way."
Baker said that effort is being undertaken by the coroner's office in conjunction with the chief medical examiner.
In breaking down the CDC data, the New York Times reported that deaths in Massachusetts were 120% of the five-year average during the March 8 to April 11 timeframe, meaning there were about 1,200 more deaths than the average. In that timeframe, reported COVID-19 deaths totaled 686, the Times said