While Covid-19 deaths head lower, raising hopes that the U.S. is turning a corner as vaccinations continue, states around the country are steadily finding previously unreported deaths that are causing data confusion.
The issues largely involve systems that states are using to try to report Covid-19 data in near real time, and not deaths reported more slowly through death certificates. These front-line numbers are the ones that fuel state dashboards and data trackers, like the closely watched one created by Johns Hopkins University, which help policy makers and the public closely monitor pandemic trends.
Ohio in February announced more than 4,000 additional deaths while reconciling its data, and Indiana added about 1,500. Smaller revisions have also recently come from Virginia, Minnesota and Rhode Island. On Thursday, authorities in West Virginia said medical providers hadn’t properly reported 168 deaths to the state’s public-health department.
“Nobody likes surprises, and nobody likes data that’s wrong because that’s what drives decisions,” said Ayne Amjad, West Virginia’s state health officer.
These issues underscore ways in which Covid-19 can still challenge data-reporting systems in the U.S. Like many countries, the U.S. is trying to track pandemic events nearly as they happen, and a big part of this effort has required speeding up how deaths are reported.