Bates County Coroner Public Service Message

A couple questions have come to the Bates County Coroner and they’re good. And you know he does his best to keep you informed on how his office is spending your tax dollars and time. The question is what is the Coroner’s office doing differently during the Covid-19 pandemic and what plans are in place?

The short answer is that day-to-day, not much has changed – yet. If a person dies in this county due to Covid, the law requires that the Bates County Coroner be notified because it’s an infectious disease. So yes, Mr. Mullinax has been notified in each death where Covid is involved. But, if the person is under the care of a physician – (meaning inpatient, in a health care facility, on hospice, or recently treated by a physician), there is nothing the Coroner is required to do unless there are other factors (i.e., the death is suspicious somehow). If the death is due to natural causes, the physician is the person most familiar with the cause of death. It is then up to that doctor to complete the death certificate and the Coroner does not intervene unless there is a reason.

That is also why his office is not reporting Covid deaths and reflects what the Health Department publishes. In most cases, the primary care doctor has the responsibility to determine whether the death was due to Covid alone, or other factors, and report it accordingly. So if it’s not a case Coroner, Greg Mullinax was involved in, it would be inaccurate for him to report how the death occurred. If a person dies outside the care of a physician, then the Coroner is directly involved and will determine the cause and manner of death just as he would in any other case.

As for the future, the Bates County Coroner office stands prepared to assist if Covid deaths become a mass event. In other words, a death rate higher than what’s normally manageable with area resources. Refrigeration units and supplies are available and on standby. In this case, the office would provide resources in the same way a mass-fatality disaster plan would be used. As of today, thankfully, we’ve not come close to needing these plans. That does not mean he is not prepared, however.

The Bates County Coroner is in communication as needed with the Health Department and local health care facilities. He is paying close attention to the situation should any resources be needed. Our local physicians and care facilities have done a phenomenal job of managing the crisis so far with minimal assistance from me. If you see them, thank them. Trust me, they’re tired.

That’s the situation from the office of your Bates County Coroner, Greg Mullinax.  May everyone enjoy a safe and restful Thanksgiving as best we can.

Greg D. Mullinax
Bates County Coroner