Coronavirus contagious beyond death: unreported cases

Posted at 7:38 PM, Apr 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-30 19:44:54-04

COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. — As the state moves toward re-opening, there’s something researchers want you to know. The number of deaths caused by coronavirus might be undercounted.

And even though the coronavirus can spread from dead bodies, a recent study by Yale University says some deaths that could be COVID-related were overlooked, because of the lack of testing.

The study has yet to be peer-reviewed, but suggests states like Florida and Pennsylvania underreported COVID-related deaths early in the outbreak.

Collier County’s medical examiner said they test deceased people for COVID-19 if there are signs the patient could’ve had the disease.

But that protocol is not universal. The Charlotte County medical examiner said they’re only counting COVID-19 deaths if patients were diagnosed with the disease before they died.

But Florida Gulf Coast University forensic specialist Heather Walsh-Haney said all the medical examiners she’s worked with are not doing what Charlotte County is doing.

“I’ve found the exact opposite to be true. In fact, when I’ve been in offices, medical examiners are testing for COVID-19,” she said.

Walsh-Haney analyzes dead bodies for law enforcement agencies in Florida and protects herself whether there’s signs of COVID-19 or not.

“I have eye coverings, my mouth and nose are covered, my hair is covered. I wear double gloves,” she said. “Assume that they have an exposure risk for you for the most horrible bacterial or viral infection.”