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Who’s dying of coronavirus in Mecklenburg County? Officials are saying little

Fifteen people in the past two weeks have died after being diagnosed with coronavirus in Mecklenburg County, the most in the state.

But the public knows little about them or their deaths, including specifics of underlying health conditions, how long they were sick, or even if the doctors treating Charlotte News them knew their patient had COVID-19.

Officials have said that in general, those with chronic conditions — including respiratory illnesses, diabetes and hypertension — are “more likely to experience severe complications and death due to COVID-19,” according to a Mecklenburg news release on Monday. And adults who are 60 or older are four times more likely to be hospitalized, officials have said.

It’s also unknown where in Mecklenburg the victims lived. County officials also refuse to say where a reported four nursing home outbreaks are located and haven’t said whether any nursing home resident has died.

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County officials say they don’t plan to release more Press Release Distribution Service In Charlotte information, citing patient confidentiality law. But open-government advocates say that demographic data wouldn’t present a privacy violation.

”A (patient confidentiality) problem is raised when you take those potentially identifying pieces of information and use them to create a patient profile,” said Brooks Fuller, the director of the North Carolina Open Government Coalition.

“It’s not caused by general demographic information to show the virus may be affecting different swaths of our population.”

Mecklenburg reported its first death from COVID-19 on March 29. The county reported three additional deaths late Monday, bringing the total to 15.

Initially, the Mecklenburg County health department would say only whether the person who died had an underlying health issue that exacerbated coronavirus symptoms. Sometimes, officials would release the person’s age or estimated age.

But it wasn’t until 10 people locally had died that Mecklenburg County officials began letting some other basic demographics trickle out: sex, race and hospitalization status.

The information shows the first 10 people who died were all 60 years old or older with underlying chronic health issues and two-thirds were male — figures mostly in line with state data released on deaths across North Carolina. Almost all of those individuals were hospitalized, the county said.

Half of those who died in Mecklenburg were non-Hispanic black — signaling “persisting disparities” that Mecklenburg officials attributed Friday to issues such as poor access to health care, “driving inequities in illness and death related to COVID-19 in our community and many communities nationwide.

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