For the last five days, the data on the state’s coronavirus website has been labeled as “incomplete”, with thousands of reports pending review. And it’s unclear when the asterisk will be removed from the daily numbers.
On Sunday, the state's coronavirus website reported 5,612 confirmed deaths from COVID, with 333,020 confirmed cases. For the eighth straight day, hospitalization numbers were higher than the day before.
Ohio has set records for COVID hospitalizations nearly every day in the last month. On September 19, 585 people were hospitalized with COVID. A month later, 1,154 COVID patients were hospitalized. On November 19, 3,828 people wtih COVID were in Ohio hospitals.
Determining who has COVID is important. And a flood of antigen tests came to Ohio from the federal government last month.
Those tests are less sensitive than the PCR tests the state has been using, so Gov. Mike DeWine said Ohio has been double-checking some 12,000 antigen test results.
“We made a decision to double check these basically, and that means going back, making a phone call, going back to the health department, finding out the facts that surround that particular test," DeWine said. “We started to do that. And so nothing is actually confirmed until we get that positive from antigen. But then they go back and they do some additional fact checking."
DeWine knows well the difference between the antigen test and a PCR test. He tested positive with an antigen test set up by the White House before a planned visit with President Trump in Cleveland in August. That visit was scrapped and DeWine came to Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center for two more PCR tests, and they both delivered negative results.
DeWine made those comments Wednesday, the first day that the website showed the "incomplete" data message. It was hours before the numbers were updated at all that day.
Still no update on today’s COVID numbers on the @OHdeptofhealth’s https://t.co/RIGFL52cXM website, nearly an hour after numbers are usually reported - apparently an IT problem. pic.twitter.com/pn5GtlME1P
— Karen Kasler (@karenkasler) November 18, 2020
The Ohio Department of Health also reported system errors and local health departments have been struggling with reduced staff and huge numbers of cases.
A Department of Health spokesperson said in a text that there’s "no estimated timeframe" to reconcile the backlog.
The coronavirus.ohio.gov website was set up by the Ohio Department of Health in the early days of the pandemic. It shows the latest numbers of coronavirus cases and deaths as released every day at 2pm, but also tracks that data by race, age, gender and location. The dashboard also tracks COVID and non-COVID patients in hospitals, in intensive care units and on ventilators with numbers provided by the Ohio Hospital Association, and features charts showing the capacity of the overall system.
Among that data is confirmed and "probable" cases and deaths, a specific category defined by the CDC. Confirmed cases are those with positive results from PCR tests, while probable cases are those not confirmed by PCR tests but likely to be positive based on other criteria, including antigen tests.
DeWine said on Wednesday that he's heard other states are putting the results of these antigen tests from the federal government into their totals, because it's a time consuming process to double-check them. But he said Ohio would take that extra step.
A few critics have raised questions about the completeness and transparency of the data on the state's COVID website, including some Republican lawmakers who've backed a bill to change that data. The DeWine administration has always said it’s been transparent with data.