Ohio COVID death data will be updated twice a week as state moves to new reporting system

Ohio’s coronavirus death data will be updated twice a week instead of daily as the state transitions to a new reporting system after underreporting thousands of COVID-19 deaths.

In mid February, the state health department announced that approximately 4,000 coronavirus deaths were not included Ohio’s COVID-19 data dashboard.

Ohio Department of Health Director Stephanie McCloud said the new system will be more accurate but will take longer to report deaths.

Ohio initially used Ohio Disease Reporting System mortality data to report deaths. ODRS tracks an illness from its start until a patient either recovers or dies.

The state would then verify death data using death certificate from the Elections Death Registration System.

“Early in the pandemic, Ohio recognized the need to be transparent and report data as quickly and accurately as possible,” McCloud said. “We knew the citizens of Ohio needed to know about the spread of COVID-19 statewide and their communities.”

Starting this afternoon, some of the state’s COVID-19 dashboards will look different as a result. Probable deaths will no longer be included because all deaths will be confirmed through death certificate data.

However, because death certificate data can take weeks to be filed, COVID death data will not be updated as frequently.

ODH Chief Medical Officer Bruce Vanderhoff said there may be a lag of one to two months.

The state will update deaths as the information is received and not on two set days.

Other coronavirus data, such as hospitalizations, vaccinations and cases, will continue to be updated on the original schedule.

Because death data will be updated twice a week, daily death data on the 21-day trend dashboard will be zero for most days.

ODH warned that Ohioans may see some fluctuations in death data as the state transitions to its new system.

Previously, the state health department had to manually reconcile death data as it was added to the COVID-19 dashboards. This led to a greater risk of error, McCloud explained.

“We were engaged in a manual process that attempted to provide information in real time,” she said. “Manual processes are fraught with more opportunities for mistakes and human error.”

The new system will rely more on technology, with ODH staff checking for quality assurance and double-checking data before it is added to the dashboard.

“The Ohio Department of Health is committed to sharing information as quickly as possible – but not at the price of accuracy,” Vanderhoff said. “That is why, as we move forward, we will be reporting the ‘gold standard’ of data from EDRS. The mortality data will be more accurate.”