(STATE COLLEGE) – Citing concerns over how COVID-19 deaths were reported, Senator Judy Ward (R-30) and House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R-171) were joined by Pennsylvania coroners to highlight a bill that clarifies when deaths must be reported.
“After talking with the very people who are the voices for those in our communities who have died due to COVID-19, I introduced legislation to provide more accurate reporting of the deaths and ensure the safety and wellbeing of our communities,” Senator Ward said. “Coroners are tasked by the electorate to work closely with the community – specifically healthcare professionals and law enforcement – to provide answers to grieving families. This bill will allow them to fully perform the duties they were elected to do.”
“This bill will make clear that all deaths in a county suspected of a disease constituting a health disaster or pandemic shall be referred to the county coroner for investigation. In my tenure as coroner, we believed that was the law, we believe it is the law, and I’ve tried to tell that to the former Secretary of Health to no avail,” Rep. Benninghoff said. “Throughout the pandemic, we have seen a lack of transparency in the Department of Health (DOH), and interference with the ability of the coroners to do their jobs – the jobs they were elected to do.”
Senator Ward and Rep. Benninghoff were flanked by coroners from throughout Pennsylvania to underscore discrepancies in numbers of COVID deaths reported by the DOH and deaths they as coroner’s were aware of in their county.
Senate Bill 327 makes it clear that certain circumstances of death shall be reported to the coroner, including any disease constituting a health disaster emergency or pandemic. A similar bill passed both the Senate and the House with large bipartisan majorities only to be met by Governor Wolf’s veto pen.