The following is a news analysis.
This week on Full Measure, I investigate the way states counted and, sometimes, miscounted Covid deaths.
I started my research in Grand County, Colorado where the coroner, Brenda Bock, had flagged a murder-suicide that somehow ended up on the state's Covid death count.
That wasn't the only eyebrow raising example.
One thing Bock and other coroners who discovered such anomalies couldn't figure out was who, exactly, was calling the shots.
Who was it who, apparently, aggressively sought out the name of any deceased person-- even before the death certificate was signed-- cross-referencing the name against a database of positive Covid tests, and adding the death to the list of Covid deaths even when it may have had nothing to do with Covid?
To try to get more information, I filed a simple public records request for information in Colorado. State law requires the information to be provided within three days.
Many weeks later, Colorado Public Health officials were unlawfully ignoring the request, as well as my many follow up queries. Likewise, when I reached out to other state officials for assistance in making sure public records law was followed, those contacts were also ignored. This included multiple outreach to the governor's office and numerous state health authorities.
Finally, I hired a lawyer to pursue the records request. This is too often the outcome at the federal level, as well. Public officials treat the documents and materials that they collect on our behalf, that we own and have a right to see, as if they are their own proprietary private property to be withheld at will.
These officials know that for members of the public and press to hire a lawyer is expensive and time-consuming; suing in court over a public records violation even more so. And these officials know there is almost never any punishment or repercussion when they break the law and improperly withhold records.
My lawyer shook loose some of the documents, which you can read here.
One of the outrages, though, is that Colorado improperly blacked out its communications with other states, such as California and New York, when it came to talking about the Covid death count.
It appears Colorado officials also failed to turn over many documents that we know would likely exist discussing various matters and complaints related to the Covid death count.
But one small sliver of information Colorado did turn over shows that health officials were none too happy with Brenda Bock, the Grand County coroner who was questioning the state's death count methodology.
In an email, Ron Engels -- at the time, a Gilpin County Commissioner -- wrote the head of Colorado's health department Jill Ryan, and alerted her about Bock's questions (immediately determining, apparently, that they were political in nature). Engels is "involved with several state agencies, including the State Board of Health... and the Coroner’s Training and Standards Board."
Engels forwards Ryan the query Bock had sent to the state coroners' association in which Bock asked about standing up to "get the practice" of miscounting Covid deaths "stopped."
"...someone might want to look into the situation before it becomes a media circus."Ron Engels re: Bock's questions about Colorado's Covid-19 death count
Engels tells Ryan that "somebody might want to look into the situation before it becomes a media circus."
Ryan responds by explaining that it's a "nuanced" situation and "This is routinely how death surveillance is conducted."
Engels answers back. "[I]t sounds like x ok conservative Coroner Bock is thinking of creating a media stink. Maybe someone from [Colorado Coroners Association] could make an attempt to explain what you did below before there is yet another thing the naysayers can grab onto?"
Ryan offers to speak to the coroners' group. Engels signs off with, "Thanks for all your support during my political career."
Read the emails below.