Ohio Department of Health Announces Change in COVID Death Reports

Starting today, the Ohio Department of Health will begin using death certificate data from the Electronic Death Registration System (EDRS) as the sole source of information for deaths reported on the state’s COVID-19 dashboards. In the past, ODH has reported Ohio Disease Reporting System (ODRS) mortality data daily, and reconciled that information with verified death certificate data from EDRS. Beginning today, ODRS data will no longer be used to update death information on the state’s COVID-19 dashboards.

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

ODRS relies on data entry from a variety of sources including local health departments, healthcare providers, and urgent care centers. Reports from ODRS come during the course of a person’s illness and are dependent on updates from the data providers, and have been considered “real time” in nature. To address potential disconnects and inaccuracies with ODRS data related to deaths, the department of health instituted a manual reconciliation process with the EDRS, which is populated from death certificates which have been verified by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). EDRS is the final source of truth about deaths, and will allow the Ohio Department of Health to report only deaths that have been verified to be caused by COVID-19 on coronavirus.ohio.gov.

“The Ohio Department of Health is committed to sharing information as quickly as possible – but not at the price of accuracy. 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,” explained Ohio Department of Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff.

Mortality data listed on the state’s COVID-19 dashboards will no longer list deaths as confirmed or probable, because all deaths will have been verified with death certificate data. Instead, they will be listed as “Deaths in State of Ohio” and “Ohio Resident Deaths.”

In addition, mortality data will no longer be reported daily. Updated death certificate data is typically sent to the Ohio Department of Health twice per week, and may lag – often 1-2 months, but up to 6 months. On dates that data is not reported to the Ohio Department of Health, deaths will remain static on the COVID-19 dashboards. For the foreseeable future, mortality information will not be updated on specific days of the week. Case and other data will continue to be reported through ODRS on its current schedule.

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