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Arizona finds 35 more coronavirus deaths by examining death certificates

James Harvey tends tends to the inventory of pre-sold caskets at a funeral home on April 29, 2020 in New York City. The funeral home, which serves a busy and diverse community in Queens, has been overwhelmed with the deceased from COVID-19. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

PHOENIX – The Arizona Department of Health Services said Friday it found 35 additional COVID-19 deaths by taking a closer look at death certificates from the last month or so.

Death certificate surveillance is an important tool for tracking the extent of the coronavirus spread or any communicable disease investigation, Health Director Dr. Cara Christ said in a blog post.

“This surveillance can provide key information about risk factors and the severity of a disease, especially when dealing with a novel virus,” she said.

The 35 additional deaths were among 67 reported by the state Friday morning, pushing the total to 517.

Christ said the state followed recent guidance from the National Center for Health Statistics on how to certify deaths and did surveillance on death certificates from as far back as the week of April 12.

“The NCHS guidance provides direction to death certifiers on proper cause-of-death certification for cases where confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infection resulted in death, which will help physicians report COVID-19 related deaths in a timely, consistent, and accurate manner,” she said.

“As a result, local, state, and federal public health officials will be better able to accurately identify deaths related to this pandemic.”

The Arizona health department started following the guidance May 1, Christ said.

“While this change will cause the number of new deaths reported on the dashboard to jump more than expected for a few days, the deaths are shown on the dashboard using the date of death,” she said.

Arizona’s positive test total increased by 581 to 10,526 on Friday morning. It was the state’s largest daily reported case and death increase to date, and it came on the day retail shops, hair salons and barbershops were permitted to reopen.

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