The Oregon Health Authority, during a meeting on Thursday, discussed making its existing statewide mask mandate permanent, according to The Blaze.

Massachusetts Revises COVID-19 Death Count Downward After Adopting New Definition.

The masks are coming off, testing and vaccinating are on the decline, kids are remaining in school.

But as COVID-19 restrictions are loosening, could we see a change in the alleged death count, which is now close to 1 million Americans?

Massachusetts offers a clue.

Last week, according to the Berkshire Eagle, Massachusetts public health authorities will provide a routine report about the effect of the virus on the state. But “the cumulative death toll through two years of the pandemic suddenly will stand about 15 percent lower.”

In a move that, as the Eagle noted, “could reshape understanding of the pandemic’s impact,” Massachusetts this week acknowledged a “significant overcount of deaths,” and will now redefine when someone has died from COVID-19.

Officials will now apply a metric drafted in December by the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists. Consequently, Massachusetts, applying the new system retroactively, will subtract 4,081 deaths formerly attributed to COVID, but will add about 400 new ones. Those subtracted will be “recategorized” as having other causes.

Related: Vaccines, Masks, Staying At Home Did Not Make Major Difference In COVID Rates, NYT Says

In a press release Wednesday, the state Department of Public Health said that early in the pandemic it simply matched COVID-19 cases with death certificates to identify people who tested positive for the virus and died but did not have COVID listed as a cause of death.

“To avoid the possibility of missing any COVID-associated death, anyone who tested positive for COVID and died was counted as a COVID-associated death regardless of the length of time between their diagnosis and their death or whether COVID was listed as the cause on their death certificate,” the department said. “This approach was overly broad and led to an overcounting of COVID-19-associated deaths.”

The Eagle reported that for the first year of the pandemic Massachusetts counted anyone who tested positive for COVID as a COVID death.

The agency said it revised the definition last April. It adopted a rule that counted virus-related deaths as anyone with COVID-19 listed as a cause of death, but also a virus diagnosis within 60 days of death.

The state will now drop the 60-day standard to 30 days. State Epidemiologist Dr. Catherine Brown said in a statement that Massachusetts had been using “a variety of processes and definitions to count their deaths,” which also have “consistently been broader than most other states.”

“We recognize that this updated definition gives us a truer picture of mortality associated with COVID-19,” she added.

In a statement in December, the CTSE said the new definition is “intended to help public health surveillance programs decide whether infections counted as COVID-19 cases in persons who have died should also be counted as COVID-19-associated deaths.”

It’s unclear how many states have adopted the same definition, although Brown said Massachusetts was aligning with “most” states.

Still, it’s worth recalling that in December 2020 then-President Donald Trump was accused of spreading “conspiracy theories” when he complained, “This country and its reporting systems are just not doing it right.”   

Related: Vaccines, Masks, Staying At Home Did Not Make Major Difference In COVID Rates, NYT Says

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