Discrepancies exist in COVD-19 data provided by the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) and other prominent sources of information, The Ohio Star has learned.

“According to our data, 1,704 Ohio residents died from COVID-19 in December,” Michelle Fong, a public information officer for ODH said Wednesday. “Our report information is based on date of death when reported residence was inside Ohio.”

But The New York Times, perhaps the most prominent source of COVID-19 data including total deaths by state, tallied a different total number of deaths in December. According to The Times, which has a COVID-19 data tracker embedded into Google’s search results, 2,577 Ohioans died from COVID-19 in December. That number is far higher than ODH’s 1,704 figure.

Curiously, both sources of data have reported the same number of overall COVID-19 deaths in Ohio.

“In addition, Ohio’s method of reporting mortality data uses Electronic Death Registration System (EDRS) information from death certificates coded by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS),” Fong said. “This verifies the death was a result of COVID-19. This is to ensure that, for example, someone who was in a fatal car accident but had tested positive for COVID-19, is not inaccurately counted as a death caused by COVID-19.”.

“It appears The New York Times data follows a different methodology based on the date reported as deceased, which could include people who died in other months,” she said. “We would recommend you contact The New York Times for more information on how their data is compiled and shared.”

Fong instructed The Star to ask The Times how it came up with its figures.

“Our data for Ohio is from the state health department, and this is a difference of how deaths are assigned to each day,” Jordan Cohen, The Times’ executive director of communications said.

“We use the date cases and deaths are announced or added to the cumulative total to be consistent across all states,” he continued. “Ohio provides more detailed information than most states about each death, including the date of death, but also reports deaths with more of a lag than most other states. Many of the deaths Ohio reported in December likely occurred in November or possibly even earlier, and deaths that occurred in late December may not be included yet.”

Cohen conceded that “the state’s date of death data is ultimately more accurate for measuring how many deaths occurred each month.”

Tens of thousands of new COVID-19 have been reported on some days during the past two weeks. But scientists believe that the Omicron variant is far less deadly than previous variants, making death counts particularly important as officials decide how to handle the latest surge.

For example, Ohio has not implemented a mask mandate in its public schools at the state level, though Gov. Mike DeWine (R) has encouraged individual schools to require masks.

But some, like the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), have taken extreme measures in response to the latest uptick in cases.

CTU voted to pause in-person learning and return to remote learning as of Wednesday, a controversial decision that has some up in arms.

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Pete D’Abrosca is a contributor at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Pete on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].