It’s Always a COVID-19 Death In Milwaukee County

Aug. 4, 2020

Every person who dies in Milwaukee County with COVID-19, dies of COVID-19 according to records from the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner.

Of Milwaukee County’s 383 COVID-19 deaths (as of July 31st), 372 of those individuals had other underlying health conditions.

Hypertension was the most common comorbidity, with 199 cases. There were 160 cases of diabetes and 106 cases of cardiovascular disease. There were also patients with leukemia, colon cancer, and prostate cancer. The average victim of COVID-19 in Milwaukee County had 2.5 comorbidities. Some had 5 or 6 other serious conditions.

“Almost everyone dying of it has other serious health problems”

“Almost everyone dying of it has other serious health problems,” according to Karen Domagalski, Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office Operations Manager.

Regardless, all these cases were recorded as COVID-19 deaths. Domagalski says that’s what doctors marked on the death certificates.

“The doctor reviews the causes and if he feels COVID was the main factor that’s what he puts down,” she said.

Even if they weren’t tested for COVID-19, “If they had symptoms of COVID that’s what they put down.”

Two of the victims had six comorbities. This is how their records appear in the examiner’s records:

“CauseA: Complications of novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) infection; CauseOther: Chronic congestive heart failure, diabetes mellitus, Parkinson’s disease, hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, chronic renal failure,” read one of the records.

“CauseA: Complications of novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) infection; CauseOther: Alzheimer’s disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic renal failure, hypertension, atherosclerotic coronary and peripheral vascular disease,” read the other record.

COVID-19 was never marked as “CauseOther.”

The medical examiner’s office reviews every record, but ultimately comes to the same conclusion every time.

“We try to weed through it all and make the right determination,” Domagalski said. “For the most part, they’re doing fine until they get COVID even with all the comorbidities. It’s pretty much accelerating death in those patients.”

Orville Seymer and Chris Kliesmet contributed to this report