SEATTLE — Washington health officials have removed seven deaths from the state’s official COVID-19 mortality count, including three homicides.
The Department of Health said Wednesday it had been counting as coronavirus deaths all people who died and tested positive for the disease. Authorities say they have now removed deaths from the count that weren’t caused specifically by COVID-19.
Those deaths included three homicides, two suicides and two overdoses. The department said four of the deaths were in King County and three were in Yakima County.
Going forward, authorities say they will attempt to be more specific about whether a death was caused by the coronavirus or whether a person died of other causes.
With the revisions, the state now reports that at least 1,226 people have died from COVID-19. Nearly 26,800 have tested positive.
Also Wednesday the department said since April 21 it had been including negative antibody test results along with negative molecular test results in the total negative tests.
“This has incorrectly inflated our reporting of individuals who have tested negative for COVID-19,” the department said.
Molecular tests gauge whether a person has an active infection, while antibody tests help determine whether someone was exposed to the coronavirus in the past.
After correcting for the error, health officials say the actual cumulative positive percentage for people tested in Washington state increased to 6.2 percent from 5.5 percent.
Also Wednesday, authorities said Grays Harbor County has been approved to move into Phase 3 of easing of Gov. Jay Inslee’s coronavirus restrictions. Authorities said there are now three counties in Phase 1, three counties in a modified version of Phase 1, 21 counties in Phase 2 and 12 counties in Phase 3.
The three counties that remain in Phase 1 — Benton, Franklin and Yakima — are only allowed to let essential businesses open, must limit outdoor recreation and keep restaurant service to takeout and delivery.
King County — the state’s largest and home to Seattle — was recently approved to move to a modified Phase 1 and will now allow all outdoor recreation permitted in Phase 2, expand opening indoor fitness studios for one-on-one activities, allow restaurants to begin opening indoor seating at 25 percent of normal capacity and allow hair stylists and other personal services at 25 percent capacity. Two other counties — Chelan and Douglas — are also in a modified Phase 1 of reopening.
The virus causes mild to moderate symptoms in most patients, and the vast majority recover. But it is highly contagious and can cause severe illness and death in some patients, particularly the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.