CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Ohio Department of Health announced late Wednesday that as many as 4,000 COVID-19 deaths may have gone unreported by the agency, and said it planned to make the adjustments in the coming week.
The 6 p.m. news release came two days after cleveland.com questioned why some reports from the Centers for Disease Control showed Ohio with about 4,000 more deaths than what the state had been reporting. It was unclear from Wednesday’s announcement if this was related. The state did not respond to the cleveland.com question from Monday.
The state to date has reported 11,856 deaths since the onset of coronavirus in Ohio early last year. The announcement means the death total likely is closer to 16,000.
“Process issues affecting the reconciliation and reporting of these deaths began in October,” Wednesday’s announcement from the health department said. “The largest number of deaths were from November and December. Although being reported this week, the deaths will reflect the appropriate date of death on the state’s COVID-19 dashboard.”
Even before the adjustments, the last two months of last year were the deadliest on record for COVID-19 in Ohio, with 2,804 December deaths reported through Monday and 1,572 for November.
Dan Tierney, spokesman for Gov. Mike DeWine, said the error had to to with a “reconciliation” of death records from two databases.
One source is the infectious disease database in which hospitals, health departments and others have to report certain infectious diseases and their outcomes, including if patients die, he said. That information is usually sent within hours or days to the state.
The second source of death data comes from a database that’s updated when county officials file death certificates. County officials have about six months to file death certificates, Tierney said.
Health department officials check each database and reconcile the deaths.
The health department statement said: “ODH will continue working with the auditor of state’s office, which has been engaged in an audit of COVID-19 data since September of 2020. The issue related to the unreconciled COVID-19 deaths was identified by the Ohio Department of Health during a routine employee training.”
cleveland.com reporter Laura Hancock contributed to this report.
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