Health department officials clear up confusion over Ohio’s coronavirus data

Coronavirus

CLEVELAND (WJW) — The state of Ohio tracks new reports of coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths on a daily basis. But with a lot of misinformation floating around, some people are concerned the numbers don’t add up on the state’s COVID-19 dashboard.

While the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) reports surging numbers of cases, hospitalizations and deaths, the dashboard’s daily metric chart appears to show those numbers declining in recent days.

ODH spokesperson Melanie Amato said that’s because there’s a difference between the date new data is reported and the date it occurred, which is what’s charted.

“We track by symptom onset date or date of death, not the date that has been reported to us,” Amato said. “We want to be as transparent as possible, so that means getting data out, but it’s also preliminary data.”

Amato said there can be a lag time of up to several weeks for information to make it to the state, and even longer for deaths.

For instance, a COVID-19 death reported today may have occurred last week. Likewise, a newly reported case could be based on a positive test conducted several days ago, with symptoms beginning days before that test.

“If you got tested that day, we won’t know about it until several days later,” Amato said.

That’s why data on the dashboard’s metric chart is highlighted as preliminary for the last two weeks and updated as new numbers come in, according to Amato.

“I think you need to just look at it and remember it’s preliminary,” Amato said.

There has also been concern over possible repetition of case counts after a cable news commentator this week falsely claimed a Mahoning County woman tested positive 15 times and was then counted as 15 separate cases.

Local and state health officials said that’s simply not true. Rather, 15 separate people grouped in the same age range of 80 plus each showed symptoms starting on the same day, which can happen in a nursing home environment.

Data for multiple people in the same age range is reported on the same line in the state’s database.

“There’s no reason for us to make up this data, we really want people to be safe,” Amato said. “We have nothing to hide.”

ODH said Ohioans who are tested must provide their name and birth date, creating a case file that stays with the person and is cross-matched with future test results.

“One person becomes one case, no matter how many times they’re tested,” Gov. Mike DeWine said during a press conference Thursday.

Amato said coronavirus deaths are counted only if the virus contributed to someone’s death as determined by a local coroner, and state health officials review coroner reports to make sure the determination is clear.

You can view Ohio’s COVID-19 dashboard, here.

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