The Ohio Department of Health says as many as 4,000 COVID-19 deaths may have been underreported through the state’s reporting system. Those deaths will now be added to the state’s tally of deaths from the coronavirus during the coming week.
Health officials say “process issues affecting the reconciliation and reporting of these deaths” began in October, with most occurring in November and December.
“Although being reported this week, the deaths will reflect the appropriate date of death on the state’s COVID-19 dashboard," the state said in a press release.
The department identified the problem during a routine employee training, officials said. For several months, state-reported numbers have been less than those reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We are starting our standard administrative review process as to how the issue arose and why it was not flagged sooner, and I’m really able to comment on anything more than that until that’s completed," said Ohio Department of Health director Stephanie McCloud.
McCloud suspects part of the problem is because there are two points of entry for death data.
The department says it will continue working with the Ohio Auditor's office, which has been doing an audit of COVID-19 data since September.
Even without the adjustment, December 2020 was Ohio’s deadliest month since the coronavirus pandemic began nearly a year ago, with 2,804 virus-related deaths originally reported.
Through Wednesday, Ohio has reported 11,856 COVID-19 deaths. Once the undercount is fixed, that number will be closer to 16,000 deaths.