With more than 300 deaths in D.C. related to the coronavirus, the D.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner is busy.
In additional to their regular work of identifying causes of death, officials are now combing through cases to determine whether D.C. had COVID-19 deaths before the first cases of the illness were reported in March.
Chief Medical Examiner Roger A. Mitchell Jr. said officials are looking back at cases classified as pneumonia from as far back as December.
“I have my staff looking at some of the older pneumonia cases to see if there was a possibility we had a case prior to our March 20 case,” he said.
Starting in January, the staff began looking at recent travel, any cough and any history of pneumonia-like symptoms. But they want to be sure they didn’t miss anything.
People who died what has been classified as a community death, outside a hospital, also will be tested.
Additionally, the chief medical examiner has assembled a team of 25 outreach specialists called navigators, to help the families of D.C.’s coronavirus victims. They’re contacting the families of each person who has died of the virus and making sure they have everything they need. Some families have lost more than one loved one or lost their head of household.
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The navigators are providing bereavement counseling, help with burial arrangements and guidance getting benefits such as food stamps and unemployment insurance.
So far, they’ve made contact with about half of the 336 people who have died.
“On an average day, we have three to five cases on our list of violent or sudden deaths. Now we’re anywhere from 20 to 25 cases on any given day,” Mitchell said.
If you lost a loved one to the virus and have not been contacted, call 1-888-WE-Help and you will be assigned a navigator who can help you.