New CDC Recommendations Aim To Standardize The Way Officials Tally Disaster Fatalities

The goal of the recommendations is to mitigate financial, planning and political difficulties caused by inaccurate death counts.

By Kristen CabreraOctober 12, 2018 5:34 pm,

As what was once Hurricane Michael dissipates over the southeast, officials in the Florida panhandle continue to assess its impact. The images show some communities utterly leveled – the death count, at last check, stood at 12. That number is expected to rise. After other recent storms, like Hurricane Maria, which hit Puerto Rico, and Harvey here in Texas, we’re seeing that the official casualty counts don’t always add up: indeed, a storm death in one state might not be counted as such in another. So writes Sheri Fink, a correspondent for The New York Times.

Fink says the differences matter in financial terms, as compensation for survivors varies according to how someone died. Accurately estimating death tolls, and attributing them to the correct cause, also impacts the way officials prepare for future disasters.

As in post-Maria Puerto Rico, accurate tallies of the dead can also become political.

“This number, the death count, has become extremely political, because the long -held death toll was 64, and then public health research, looking at statistics, showed that close to 3,000 more people died than would have been expected otherwise,” Fink says.

What you’ll hear in this segment:

– Why officials don’t all attribute deaths the same way

– What the CDC recommends be changed

– How Harris County responds to the CDC recommendations