Though the information on the Ohio Department of Health coronavirus website has been questioned by critics and even some state lawmakers, the state’s data on COVID cases and deaths is accurate, according to a review from the Republican state auditor.
Republican Auditor Keith Faber said he’d recommend an upgrade of the system, which wasn’t designed to handle the huge amounts of data from the pandemic.
But he said his audit found that “for the most part, the information that’s being reported is accurate, and for the most part, while the system is clunky and not the most efficient, from a public policy standpoint is providing consistent, reliable information.”
Faber did say he'd like a differentiation between people who died of COVID and those who died with COVID. But he noted the state is counting those deaths in accordance with CDC guidelines.
Faber also noted in his audit that because testing data is incomplete, a true count of test results and positivity rates isn’t available. And he said there are so many health subdivisions and overlapping jurisdictions it may be difficult to track data back and verify it.
Last month’s addition of more than 4,000 deaths from November and December wasn’t part of the audit. That may be included in a second audit that Faber has said he is planning.
But Faber said he’d recommend the site be redesigned to more prominently show current hospitalizations, ICU beds and ventilator usage, rather than totals that go back to the beginning of the pandemic.
“That might be interesting to the nature and scope of COVID and its impact in Ohio over an extended period of time," Faber said. "But trying to get a handle of what the current state of COVID is today, that information isn’t as telling as knowing how many active cases are in the community.”
The state is now reporting 852,146 confirmed COVID cases and 150,676 probable cases, bringing the total to 1,002,822.
The way the website lists COVID deaths changed last month, when the state dropped "confirmed" and "probable" deaths and moved to "resident deaths" and "deaths in Ohio". Those death totals are now updated twice a week. As of today, there have been 18,382 resident deaths and 18,388 deaths in Ohio.