Bill to Improve COVID-19 Reporting Heads to Governor’s Desk

HARRISBURG – A measure that would improve reporting of COVID-19 deaths in Pennsylvania is on the Governor’s desk to be signed into law, according to Senator Judy Ward (R-30).

Senate Bill 1164, sponsored by Ward, would ensure county coroners are notified of all suspected deaths in their jurisdiction caused by this virus and other contagious diseases that constitute a health emergency.

State law requires county coroners to investigate the facts and circumstances surrounding any death – including those due to contagious disease – except in cases of death by natural causes. However, many coroners are not being notified of suspected COVID-19 deaths in hospitals, nursing homes and other care facilities because the Department of Health is interpreting the law differently.

This leads to discrepancies between the number of COVID-19 deaths reported by the Department of Health and the number reported by county coroners, creating confusion among the general public. Ward’s bill would improve transparency and eliminate inconsistencies in how COVID-19 deaths are being reported.

“We need to make sure we have an accurate count of cases and deaths to support every community’s efforts to plan for emergencies. Any discrepancies could have a serious impact on first responders and negatively impact the public’s confidence in public health officials,” Ward said. “All COVID-19 deaths should be reported to the coroners and medical examiners not only to ensure accurate reporting of the deaths, but also for the safety and wellbeing of our communities.” 

Ward sent a letter to Governor Wolf this week to detail the need for the bill and encourage him to sign it into law.

Read the letter here.

CONTACT:  Cheryl Schriner (717) 787-5490