Calcasieu coroner continues work to dispel COVID-19 myths

Welke reminds public that COVID is much deadlier than flu
Published: Jul. 30, 2020 at 7:27 PM CDT
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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - Calcasieu Coroner Dr. Terry Welke reiterated Thursday what he has said in the past - that his office is being cautious in its approach to classifying COVID-19 deaths.

Welke laid out the process for COVID death investigations. He said the coroner’s office will receive a call from a hospital, law enforcement, or hospice of a possible COVID death. That information is then given to an investigator, who gathers additional information such as past medical history and the circumstances leading to the death. That information is then turned over to Welke, who makes the final determination.

"In fact, I do my best to go ahead and keep our numbers down," Welke said. "There's been seven or eight cases that I can think of that were sent in that were COVID positive and I did not put those as the death due to those. In fact, it was not even listed on the death certificate."

Welke said he also wanted to dispel rumors that coroners are receiving kickbacks or payments for classifying deaths as COVID-19 and that COVID-19 is similar to the flu.

Welke said that the CDC estimates that there are between 12,000 to 61,000 flu deaths in the U.S. each year.

The latest numbers from Johns Hopkins Thursday showed more than 151,000 COVID-19 deaths this year, with five months to go.

Louisiana usually has less than 1,000 flu deaths per year (although last year there were around 1,550), Welke said. But 3,811 people in Louisiana have died of COVID-19 this year.

“Healthcare workers are overworked - doctors, nurses - they’re used to seeing deaths, we’re all used to seeing deaths in the healthcare business, but these numbers are just astronomical,” Welke said. “This is something that my friends that are taking care of these individuals and I am definitely not used to. We’re getting three to four COVID deaths a day and, unfortunately, they continue to go up.”

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