LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The state of Arkansas has hit another grim milestone in its battle against COVID-19. The number of Arkansans who have died from the disease now tops 8,000.
An increase of close to 300 reported deaths over the weekend resulted from what the Department of Health calls a data cleanup, attributing those to Arkansans who died out of state.
"These are deaths that occur all over the country, not just in our neighboring states. So, a lot of times getting those deaths certificates in may take a while. It may take weeks to months," said Dr. Austin Porter.
They date back to the start of the pandemic. Porter adds they're counting these out of state deaths to Arkansas' total count to have a more accurate picture of the impact on the state.
"You want those deaths to be attributed to the state of resident, not necessarily the state of occurrence," he said.
But even COVID-related deaths that happen inside the state take a lot of time to certify, especially with understaffed coroner's offices.
"There are no two cases alike in the state of Arkansas or in this country," said Saline County Coroner Kevin Cleghorn.
He says here are a lot of factors that come into play when they determine a COVID-related death but he couldn't put an exact timeline on how long it typically takes to certify. However, he said we could see the delay for quite some time.
"It's hard to say exactly when we may not see COVID on a death certificate anymore. We just don't know."
Although Porter says there will be continued data clean-ups surrounding Arkansas' COVID-19 statistics, the Department of Health does not anticipate another jump in deaths to this magnitude.