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This is a great question, and I’m not sure I can answer it fully at present. However, I have submitted an inquiry to the Ohio Department of Health to get more clarity.

From my understanding, deaths are tallied when the initial information is recorded, and the death may be removed if subsequent investigation finds that COVID-19 was not the cause of death. I don’t know if it includes only COVID-19 as the primary cause or as a contributing factor.

In an interview with Greene County epidemiologist Dr. Don Brannen in May, he told me that the Ohio Department of Health reviews all death certificates if there is any mention of COVID-19. He said the process of certifying deaths is “pretty thorough” and that, if anything, there might be over-reporting rather than under-reporting of deaths. From his perspective, public health had “a good handle on the number” of deaths from the disease.

But other experts have suggested that under-reporting was more likely, pointing out the fact that “excess deaths” have been measured in 2020 compared with previous years. Yet some believe that those excess deaths are not from COVID-19 but from the effects of the lockdowns, especially those who delayed seeking medical treatment.

I found this Scientific American article from May helpful on these issues:

This post will be updated with more information from the Ohio Department of Health on their data collection.


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