Public health experts and government officials agree that the U.S. government’s coronavirus death toll almost certainly understates how many Americans have actually died from the virus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention only counts deaths where the presence of the coronavirus is confirmed in a lab test, The Washington Post reports, and “we know that it is an underestimation,” CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund said.
There are many reasons why the numbers are underreported. Strict criteria in the beginning of the outbreak kept many people from getting tested for coronavirus, and it’s still difficult to get tested in some areas, for example. There’s also the matter of false positives, and not all medical examiners have tests or believe they should conduct postmortem testing, even on people who died at home or in nursing homes where there were outbreaks. Experts also believe some February and early March deaths that were attributed to influenza or pneumonia were likely due to coronavirus.
The official death count is based on reports sent by states, and as of Sunday night, the CDC reports 304,826 confirmed U.S. cases and 7,616 deaths. The Post, other media outlets, and university researchers update their numbers more frequently, with the Post reporting on Sunday night that 9,633 people have died from coronavirus in the U.S., and at least 337,000 cases have been confirmed.