OHA: 550 uncounted COVID deaths to be added to state totals

Coronavirus

Nurses at OHSU care for COVID-19 patients

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Over the coming weeks, the state will add around 550 more COVID-19 deaths to its registry.

Oregon Health Authority says these deaths were not previously reported because of a techinal error, and state epidemiologists are just now finding out. Most of these unrecorded deaths happened between May and August of this year.

State health officials say the deaths will be reviewed over the next month. The people who have died and meet the COVID-19 death definition per death certificates will be reported on OHA’s COVID-19 dashboard and its daily media release, according to OHA.

As OHA updates the death records the daily reported COVID related deaths will be higher until the backlog is settled. The reporting process is currently done manually, but the state has been working on automating the system though it’s led to backlog at times, officials said.

“We are taking steps to ensure that our reporting is comprehensive and transparent,” said OHA Director Patrick Allen. “We extend our condolences to everyone who has suffered a loss to COVID-19, and we deeply regret the pain this disclosure may cause.”

Oregon is currently rated as the 6th lowest death rate in the nation, however this update to the number of COVID deaths will likely push Oregon past one or two other states, state officials said.

For Oregon to match the national average for COVID deaths, officials estimate 4,000 more Oregonians would have died. Officials say the state’s low death rate is attributed to vaccinations, mask wearing and other social distancing measures.

The reported deaths are expected to be high even though there are less daily case counts. OHA says this is due to time period between a person testing positive for COVID and when they die.

Oregon has already had more than 4,200 people die from the virus.

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