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This transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. (NIAID/TNS)

Tuolumne County had 10 additional coronavirus-related deaths in the final two months of last year that were announced by the local Public Health Department on Friday.

The delayed notification of the 10 deaths came from the California Department of Public Health in a report received by the county Public Health Department earlier this week that flagged 13 possible COVID-related deaths in November and December.

“These deaths did not come to the attention of Public Health until the notification from CDPH,” the department stated in a daily update on Friday. “This is a process to ensure that all possible COVID-related deaths are investigated.”

After reviewing the report and death certificates for the individuals, the department confirmed that 10 of them were related to the deadly virus that has killed more than 365,000 Americans since early last year.

A death is considered COVID-related when the disease is determined to be the primary or contributing cause, the department said.

The department was still awaiting three additional death certificates for review and investigation.

Three of the 10 confirmed deaths happened outside of Tuolumne County and were initially reported to the county where they occurred, the department said, but the locations were not provided.

“In the seven other cases, an individual was not identified as a COVID-related death until the State received a detailed report that was then forwarded to the responsible jurisdiction,” the department said.

Many of the 10 people who died had tested positive for COVID-19 but were no longer being monitored by the department because they had completed their isolation period and could no longer infect others, the department said.

“After their monitored period, their course worsened, and their death was not reported to Public Health,” the department said.

The department did not provide the ages or genders for the people whose deaths were announced on Friday.

“We know there may be questions as to why these deaths are being reported at this time,” the department said. “As mentioned, this is a recurring report, which this time picked up a number of cases that had not been previously identified. We will continue to investigate these reports as we receive them from the State and will update the public as soon as possible.”

The new deaths brought the county’s total from COVID-19 since the pandemic began to 33, with all but six occurring since the beginning November.

Friday’s update also identified 22 new COVID-19 cases in the county, none of which were from Sierra Conservation Center near Jamestown where an outbreak has infected 1,142 inmates since early December.

There have been 2,022 cases of COVID-19 among people in the county outside of the state prison since the start of the pandemic, roughly 85% of which were confirmed since the start of an ongoing surge in early November.

Contact Alex MacLean at amaclean@uniondemocrat.net or (209) 768-5175.

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