It is a frightening headline to read: Arizona’s pediatric COVID-19 death rate was 250 percent higher than the national average. So says the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) in its 2020 Arizona Child Fatality Review report.
The problem, according to many medical experts, is that the underlying data on the number of deaths has been intentionally -and admittedly- tweaked to include nearly 30 children who were never infected with COVID-19. Those counts far outpace the 12 child deaths directly attributed to the virus, according to the ADHS report.
The report shows that 838 children died in Arizona last year, with the top five causes of death being prematurity, congenital anomalies, motor vehicle crashes, poisonings, and firearm injuries.
Without a doubt, every death of a child is a tragedy. Yet understanding how the state agency responsible for promoting public health chose to report 41 child COVID-19 deaths when 70 percent of those children were never infected is important at a time when vaccine mandates are under scrutiny.
According to the ADHS child fatality report, the deaths of 29 children were counted as “indirect” COVID deaths, a category created by ADHS and those reviewers who worked on the report.
“An indirect COVID-19 death is a death where the child or caregiver experienced changes or disruptions in how they lived, worked, or accessed services due to COVID-19,” the report states, noting as an example a death which occurred during school closures which the ADHS reviewers deemed may not have happened if the child had been physically in school.
Other indirect deaths the ADHS reviewers could attribute to COVID-19 involved economic changes such as financial disruptions in the household or a lack of childcare stemming due to the pandemic, Or even emotional issues related to social isolation or fear of contracting COVID-19.
Another example would be decisions made by a child’s caregiver during the pandemic about seeking medical care, as well as COVID-19 influenced parental decision-making which effected a child’s “overall wellbeing.”
Among those sounding the alarm on Arizona’s 250 percent higher COVID-19 child death rate is Will Humble, former ADHS director.
Humble is currently registered with the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office as the designated lobbyist for the Arizona Public Health Association. This allows him to attempt to influence the passage or defeat of any legislation through direct communications with state lawmakers, and to attempt to influence any formal rulemaking matter affecting Arizona Public Health Association or its members.
In sharing the ADHS child fatality report on Twitter, Humble did not point out that the review process accounted for more than twice the number of child deaths from perceived indirect causes than actual deaths directly attributed to the virus.
And while the ADHS reviewers made assumptions about a child’s home, economic, and school experiences to come up with 29 indirect deaths, Humble failed to address that the report does not delineate whether the 12 children who died from a COVID-19 infection had any chronic medical conditions or other medical risks.
Such facts from Arizona’s public health officials and leaders would likely be of use to help other parents better care for their children in dealing with COVID-19.