Wayne County coroner clarifies COVID-19 death statistics

By OWEN WALSH
Posted 4/20/20

HONESDALE, PA — Wayne County Coroner Edward Howell has issued a press release to clarify statistics regarding how many COVID-19 deaths the county has seen.

As of April 20, the PA Department …

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Wayne County coroner clarifies COVID-19 death statistics

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HONESDALE, PA — Wayne County Coroner Edward Howell has issued a press release to clarify statistics regarding how many COVID-19 deaths the county has seen.

As of April 20, the PA Department of Health (DOH) is reporting three COVID-19 deaths in Wayne County. This does not necessarily mean that three people have died of COVID-19 within Wayne County, however.

According to Howell, the DOH classifies deaths according to which county the deceased individuals claimed as their residence. In other words, someone who claimed Wayne County as their residence is counted as a Wayne County death by the DOH, even if the deceased passed away in another county, state or country. The coroner's office does not have the ability to track or monitor deaths that occur outside of Wayne County. “Therefore, the numbers provided by the DOH do not represent the numbers provided by [the coroner's] office,” Howell said.

 As of April 20, the coroner's office has counted four COVID-19 deaths which took place inside of Wayne County:

  1. White female, age 57, from Pike County, died in the hospital on April 5,
  2. White female, age 63, from Pike County, died in the hospital on April 5
  3. White male, age 65, from Wayne County, died in the hospital on April 14
  4. White female, age 75, from Pike County, died in the hospital on April 14

In the same press release, Howell described the risks that he and his staff undergo investigating potential COVID-19-related deaths.

"This office has tested multiple decedents who were either symptomatic or suspect for COVID-19 around the date of death. This testing is performed directly by my staff and me," Howell said. "We utilize PPE including full-body barrier suits, shoe covers, masks and gloves, etc. For each death investigation, we enter the scene of the death and become potentially exposed to the very fatal virus that may have taken the life of the one we are advocating for."

Howell also noted that his office was not one of the departments which the Wayne County Commissioners recently designated "emergency responders," therefore his employees are not receiving hazard pay.

"The coroner’s office employs one full-time deputy/death investigation supervisor in addition to me. We have four per-diem deputies who are compensated for the work they perform, only when they work. Some are paid a stipend to be on-call and response ready. These employees do not receive any benefits nor do they receive a retirement pension like most other county departments. While some county departments have been deemed 'emergency responders' and are receiving 'hazard pay,' the staff of the coroner’s office is not included in these designations."

Howell went on to commend his deputies, saying he "cannot thank them enough."

"We extend our heartfelt condolences to the families who have been so tragically affected by this virus. We express our gratitude to Wayne Memorial Hospital and the various medical facilities and providers for working with us to provide accurate information as we investigate these deaths," Howell said.

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