For Tuesday, July 14, ABC 11 News reported:

According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services [DHHS], at least 42 more people died from severe complications due to COVID-19, the largest daily increase in deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

That same day The News & Observer noted:

North Carolina’s death toll from COVID-19 cases reached 1552, rising by 42, which is a record for single-day fatalities.

Was Tuesday the deadliest day so far for the virus? Currently according to DHHS, there were 12 COVID-19 deaths on July 14. Not 42.

So what’s the deal?

The difference between when a death occurs and when DHHS reports it

Those deaths occurred on different days, but DHHS reported them (and presumably had learned about them) on July 14.

From an outsider’s perspective, we’re not sure on which days those deaths occurred.

I caught sight of this problem on June 28, a day for which no death was reported at the time. I wondered why it wasn’t being discussed. I pointed out then that it would have been “the first time since March 29” that no death was reported.

I watched for a few days until DHHS finally reported two deaths for June 28. Then on July 13, I noticed DHHS was reporting 4 deaths for June 28. As of today, DHHS lists 7 deaths for June 28.

If you’ll notice on the above graph, there’s a gray zone spanning the most recent two weeks. Hovering over it on the DHHS site brings up a note:

Specimens collected during this period may not yet be reported.

But even with that, the numbers change. June 28 was last changed after it had fallen out of the gray zone. Even for March 29, DHHS now lists 4 deaths, which leaves March 23 as the last day for which no COVID-19 deaths were reported for NC (for now).

So what does that mean for understanding announced deaths? As with other information coming out of the Cooper administration, the number may not mean what the reporting on it says. It also means that the final number for July 14 could end up being a little higher than 12.

The chart at the top of this post should help illustrate this problem. It shows by week when COVID-19 deaths in NC were reported vs. when they occurred.

Per-capita deaths by county

Here is another chart. It looks at county deaths per capita. The Cooper administration insists upon treating every area across the state with the same extreme restrictions, be it business shutdowns, personal restrictions, or K-12 school strictures. Are such one-size-fits-all orders warranted?