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By Charlotte Smith

Since the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic, some have questioned the death reporting process and question the reasoning for increased suicides and homicides. Beverly Parks, Bladen County Register of Deeds, and Dr. Teresa (Terri) Duncan, Bladen County Health and Human Services Director have explained the death reporting processes.

Beverly Parks Register of Deeds for Bladen County

Bladen County only receives a death certificate with the cause of death of persons who die in the county, according to Parks. If a person dies outside of the county, the death certificate, along with the cause of death remains in the dominion where the death occurred.

For example, if someone received a fatal injury in Bladen County, but did not die until they reached a hospital in Fayetteville, the cause of death would be listed on their death certificate in Cumberland County.

Parks said, “If a person is born in Bladen County, but dies in another county, I receive a report to mark the death date for our records, but I do not receive the cause of death with that report. I do not get a death date report from other states either.”

The local Register of Deeds Office does have death certificate reports for those deaths in the county. In 2019, there were 221 deaths in the county, according to Parks’ report. The causes of death varied. However, the breakdown for some of the county’s causes of death for the 2019 year are as follows:

6 – Overdose/accidental toxicity
4- Suicides (all were over the age 18)
0- COVID-19 related deaths
17- Accidental (falls, drownings, vehicle accidents, etc.)
0- Homicides

However, three of the death certificates from last year are still pending the medical examiner’s report. Therefore, some of the causes of death category totals listed above may change according to future certified reports.

Move forward to 2020, and Parks’ office currently has 188 deaths on file as of August 13, 2020. The breakdown of some of the death totals are as follows:

1 – Overdose/accidental toxicity
3- Suicides (all were over the age of 18)
1- COVID-19
5-Accidental (falls, drownings, vehicle accidents, etc.)
5- Homicides
2- Could not be determined

There are 12 deaths pending the medical examiner’s report. Again, some of the causes of death category totals listed above may change according to future certified reports.

On the subject of COVID-19 related deaths, some residents have asked how a person’s death can be reported as COVID-19 related, without a death certificate. Dr. Duncan said, “It isn’t according to the death certificate.”

Dr. Duncan explained, the COVID-19 associated deaths are reported by when the person’s death occurred, when they tested positive for COVID-19 (coronavirus), and their place of residence. According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, the reports of COVID-19 related deaths have fluctuated due to the many variables. However, the latest HHS report shows nine total COVID-19 related deaths for Bladen County residents.

The total number of homicides, suicides, and other causes of death for Bladen County residents is harder to track since the county does not receive all residents’ death reports.

According to reports, deaths due to homicide and suicide this year are on the rise. During the Pandemic, it is important to remember help is available for those dealing with stress, anxiety, thoughts of suicide, and addiction. Call 1-855-587-3463 for the Hope 4 NC Helpline.

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