A misleading claim that the government is going to stop tracking COVID-19 deaths is going viral — even though it isn't true

There is a false claim that the US government is going to stop tracking deaths.

"BREAKING," one of them said. The US Government will stop reporting COVID death reporting.

The US Department of Health and Human Services will no longer require hospitals to report daily deaths to them. According to guidance recently issued by the HHS, that part is true, but it does not affect the daily COVID-19 death counts that the vast majority of people have been consulting throughout the Pandemic.

As of Friday evening, nearly 3000 people had retweeted the message. One of the replies said, "The US government doesn't want us to know how many of us are dying", which received more than 1,500 likes.

"If you don't test, there's fewer cases, and if you don't report deaths, they're not happening," was another popular reply.

The claim that the US was no longer tracking deaths was denied by epidemiologists and data journalists.

"This is so misleading, please stop spreading it," said Kissane, who co-founded The Atlantic's COVID Tracking Project.

The daily death counts most people follow do not rely on or use data from the HHS, according to Kissane. She said the counts use data from the CDC or local and state health authorities.

Unless you're a very specialized data analyst, you will be seeing the same death counts.

The change in HHS data doesn't affect the real-time covid death data that most of us ever see.

When a death investigator, like a coroner or medical examiner, reports a death to the state's vital statistics office, it's recorded. The CDC, the media, and the offices report their numbers on public-facing websites. The Times' count comes from this location, he said.

Looking at covid deaths that occur in hospitals alone provides an incomplete picture. In 2020, about a third of covid deaths happened outside of hospitals.

He said it's possible there are drawbacks to the change in HHS guidance to hospitals, but that it's not what some think it is.

The data of in-hospital COVID-19 deaths provides a good indicator of US health care system stress, capacity, capability, and/or patient safety, according to one physician. He didn't understand why hospitals wouldn't be required to report the data.

HHS did not reply immediately.