Former Arizona Health Department Director Sensationalized Child COVID Fatalities Based on Inflated Report

Former Arizona Health Department Director Sensationalized Child COVID Fatalities Based on Inflated Report

By Corinne Murdock |

The former director of the Arizona Department of Health (ADHS), Will Humble, issued a statement on Sunday noting that Arizona’s number of COVID-19 deaths in children was 250 percent above the national average. Humble pulled the statistic from the ADHS Child Fatality Review Program (CFRP) annual report on child fatalities in 2020, released earlier this month. The exact number of children who reportedly died from a COVID-19 infection amounted to twelve. There were 29 indirect COVID-19 deaths, accounting for the majority of listed child COVID-19 deaths.

Those 29 deaths weren’t caused by a COVID-19 infection. Rather, they were caused by circumstances CFRP insisted were set up by the COVID-19 pandemic at large; in other words, the pandemic resulted in a butterfly effect that led to a majority of these children’s deaths. ADHS noted that they were “among the first in the nation” to adopt this rationale for cataloguing COVID-19 deaths. That may explain the disparity between Arizona’s purported number of child COVID-19 deaths versus the national number. 

The CFRP report classified those butterfly effect majority deaths, “indirect COVID-19 deaths.” They claimed that children didn’t have to be infected with COVID-19 to have died from it. 

“An indirect COVID-19 death is a death where the child or caregiver experienced changes or disruptions in how they lived, worked, or accessed services due to COVID-19,” stated the report. “The CFRP recognizes that COVID-19 likely is indirectly related to other increases of child deaths in particular suicide, firearm injuries and motor vehicle crashes included in this report.”

The ADHS report further admitted that researchers reviewed case files of other child deaths that occurred prior to public knowledge of the pandemic to discern whether those deaths were directly or indirectly related to COVID-19. For suspected direct deaths, researchers relied on medical record classifications such as influenza and pneumonia to determine whether the child died from COVID-19 and not the cause of death assigned originally. For suspected indirect deaths, researchers admitted that they considered the following: 

“Indirect COVID-19 deaths may include (but is not limited to): looking at deaths that occurred during school closures when the child may not have died if they were physically in school, deaths where the fear of contracting COVID-19 impacted seeking medical care, and social (isolation, lack of supervision, etc.), emotional (mental health, fear of contracting COVID-19, etc.), or economic changes (finance disruptions, lack of childcare, etc.) induced by COVID-19 which may have impacted the child’s or parent’s decision-making and overall wellbeing leading to the child’s death,” asserted the report.

Even with the inclusion of deaths unrelated to COVID-19 infection, ADHS noted that the total child COVID-19 deaths totaled less than 1 per 100,000 last year. 

Of the twelve who died from COVID-19 directly: seven were due to poverty and six lived in a rural region. Exact numbers couldn’t be provided for the number of children who had a chronic medical condition, no insurance, and/or an inflammatory syndrome because they numbered less than six. 

According to ADHS, there have been a total of 50 individuals under the age of 20 whose cause of death could be attributed to COVID-19. ADHS catalogued deaths by age group; the deaths for those under 20 years old were so low in comparison to the other deaths that the ADHS tracker quantified it as less than one percent of all COVID-19 deaths.

Just under 1,200 total deaths for those aged 20-44, just over 1,700 deaths for those aged 45-54, well over 3,400 deaths for those aged 55-64, and over 15,800 for those over 65.

Currently, Humble serves as the director of the Arizona Public Health Association (AZPHA), a health lobbying organization affiliated with the national lobbying organization, American Public Health Association (APHA). 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to