Results of investigation into death report data released, Justice orders creation of electronic death report system

CHARLESTON — On Wednesday, Gov. Jim Justice announced that the recent investigation into the reason why certain COVID-19-related deaths were not properly reported has been completed.

The investigation concluded that there was no willfulness and intent by any reporting authority to cause incorrect data to be reported or not reported to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR).

“Due to the lag time to prepare, submit, and issue a West Virginia death certificate, it is not possible, today, to use a death certificate for near real-time reporting of a COVID-19 death,” Gov. Justice said. “But this all has got to be changed, and we have to do it right now.”

As a result, Gov. Justice announced that he has directed the DHHR to immediately begin the process of implementing a new electronic death reporting system.

“West Virginia is one of the only states in the country that does not have an electronic system like that,” Gov. Justice said. “We probably didn’t need that in West Virginia until we got into this pandemic. But now that we’ve gotten into this situation, our people at DHHR should’ve recognized this and moved. They didn’t move and I am not happy about that. But I can tell you that it is clear there was no intent to report incorrect data.

“With the help of our National Guard, we are on it and we’re going to get it fixed,” Gov. Justice continued.

The Governor went on to report that the DHHR recently discovered that another 35 COVID-19-related deaths were not properly reported by various healthcare facilities across the state. Gov. Justice took time to honor each of these West Virginians during his briefing Wednesday.

“I truly hate this so bad,” Gov. Justice said. “These people deserve our respect and our love. I’m sure we have both for them. But, absolutely, to not report them in a timely way is not good. I hate this and I’m sorry for this.”

Click here to view the full investigation report.

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