The CDC had no interest in fixing the information until hacks from the Guardian looking into Covid mortality rates among children, uncovered the problem.
The CDC claimed that the problem was a "coding logic error" that had inadvertently added more than 72,000 Covid deaths of all ages to the data tracker.
The agency briefly noted the change in a footnote, although the note did not explain how the error occurred or how long it was in effect.
More than 72,277 deaths in all age groups reported across 26 states were removed from the tracker "because CDC's algorithm was accidentally counting deaths that were not Covid-19-related," Jasmine Reed, a spokesperson for the agency, told the Guardian.
It claimed that the problem stemmed from two questions the CDC asks of states and jurisdictions when they report fatalities, according to a source familiar with the issue.
One data field asks if a person died "from illness/complications of illness," and the field next to this asks for the date of death.
When the answer is yes, then the date of death should be provided. But a problem apparently arose if a respondent included the date of death in this field even when the answer was "no" or "unknown."
The CDC's system assumed that if a date was provided, then the "no" or "unknown" answer was an error, and the system switched the answer to "yes." This resulted in an overcount of deaths due to Covid in the demographic breakdown, and the error, once discovered, was corrected last week.
While it may prove to be a cock-up, the error plays into the hands of conspiracy theorists who have long accused the agency of “enhancing” the figures to panic government’s into vaccination programmes.
"Working with near real-time data in an emergency is critical to guide decision-making, but may also mean we often have incomplete information when data are first reported," said a CDC spokesman said.
The death counts in the data tracker are "real-time and subject to change. while numbers from the National Centre for Health Statistics, a centre within the CDC, are the most complete source of death data, despite lags in reporting, because the process includes a review of death certificates.