Human error caused Ohio’s underreported COVID-19 deaths

Coronavirus

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — The Ohio Department of Health says human error is to blame for the state’s COVID-19 death count being off by thousands.

“It is not acceptable, and we are addressing it so the public can have confidence in this,” state health director Stephanie McCloud said.

The department is estimating that 4,100 deaths went unreported between October and now. Those deaths will be added to the state’s total during the coming week.

“I think that is about the right number. It’s possible it’s a little higher; it’s possible it’s a little lower,” McCloud said Thursday.

The issue was discovered last week during a routine employee training. McCloud said the person charged with manually entering deaths and making sure there are no duplicates or mistakes fell behind during the surge this fall.

“Obviously, that person had been able to keep up, we believe and we’re going to look at everything, but we believe they were able to keep up timely. It was during the surge that apparently it became too much,” McCloud said. “This individual did not raise the red flag.”

McCloud said the department is going through restructuring and is bringing in additional help to reconcile the numbers and get them updated sometime next week.

Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, chief medical officer of the health department, said the incorrect data is unfortunate but would not have changed the state’s response to the pandemic in those months.

“We have never relied on a single measure to inform us about the severity of illness for the patterns of this virus’ activity,” Vanderhoff said.

During a media briefing, Gov. Mike DeWine said solving the problem would take several days.

“We found out about it recently and now they’re being reconciled over the next few days,” DeWine said of the numbers that were underreported. “You’re going to see a distorted number in the next couple of days. But we’re getting that straightened out.”

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