ASHLAND -- The Ashland County Health Department (ACHD) has recently changed how it is reporting deaths related to COVID-19 in its regular updates on social media.
The health department was tracking the number of Ashland residents who died with COVID-19 as the primary cause of death, but recently changed its process to instead report the number of individuals who die in Ashland County with COVID-19 as the primary cause of death.
This does not impact the number of deaths recorded at the state level, or reflect a mistake on the health department's part. However, it did change the number of deaths the health department reported from Nov. 27 to Nov. 30.
On Nov. 27, the ACHD reported a total of 24 deaths. These were Ashland County residents who died of COVID-19.
Then, over the holiday weekend, the department changed its approach. It reported a total of 20 deaths due to COVID-19 on Nov. 30 and again on Dec. 1. These were people who died of COVID-19 while in Ashland County. These could be individuals who had been receiving care at UH Samaritan or were living in a nursing home within Ashland County.
"So all this time we've been reporting all of our cases that had COVID and that passed away. Those were our residents. None of them were non-Ashland County residents, but it has dawned upon us that that is not how the state is reporting it," said Hena Samdani, a Tier 2 epidemiologist at the ACHD.
The state of Ohio tracks its cases separately, so the change does not impact the number of deaths reported on a state level. No deaths were added or removed to COVID-19 counts on any level.
What counts as a COVID-19 death for Ashland County?
These are deaths of individuals who died in Ashland County and were "wholey, solely due to COVID-19," Samdani said.
Anyone who dies of COVID-19 in Ashland County with COVID-19 listed as a primary cause of death is counted towards the number COVID-19-related deaths reported regularly via the ACHD's Facebook page.
These individuals may or may not be Ashland County residents, but as of now, no non-Ashland County residents have died in Ashland County.
What does not count as a COVID-19 death in Ashland County?
An Ashland County resident who dies outside of Ashland County will not count as a COVID-19 related death in the ACHD's regular Facebook updates.
Also, anyone who dies with COVID-19 listed as a secondary or tertiary cause of death is not counted as a COVID-19 related death. The individual is only counted if COVID-19 was a primary cause of death.
What is a "pending" death?
The Ashland County Health Department is currently reporting that 10 deaths -- outside the 20 confirmed deaths -- are "pending."
This number refers to someone who died with COVID-19 in Ashland County. However, before counting the death as a "confirmed COVID-19 death," the health department is awaiting two things: the results of a coroner's examination and the death certificate.
"It takes awhile, a long while after the passing away to the examination and then for the death certificate to be signed," Samdani said. "So it's not like it happened today, and we'd be able to report it in two days.
"You might see 20 for a couple days and then it jumps up because we get three certified."