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COVID Death Count Inaccuracies Lead to Changes at Ohio Department of Health

a photo of a hospital hallway
An error in reporting data on the number of Ohioans who've died of COVID-19 has led to reassignments and at least one resignation at the Ohio Department of Health.

Personnel changes are happening at the Ohio Department of Health following the news late Wednesday that 4,000 COVID deaths were not included in the agency’s count on its public dashboard. 

Ohio Health Director Stephanie McCloud says one employee may have become overwhelmed with reconciling data from different sources late last year but that employee didn’t let supervisors know how far behind he or she was. The problem came to light Tuesday evening when a department supervisor discovered it. McCloud says there is an investigation into how the situation happened, but she says immediate changes are being made, too. 

“We have restructured the department. We have made some changes inside the department. We have brought in additional resources," McCloud said.

Some staff have been reassigned and others have resigned. Karthik Kondapally, epidemiology investigator 3, was placed on administrative leave Thursday. He resigned this morning.  

Sietske de Fijter, former chief of the Bureau of Infectious Diseases, has been reassigned to a position in the Bureau of Health Improvement and Wellness.

Kristen Dickerson has been appointed Chief of the Bureau of Infectious Diseases. She previously served as the Manager for Statewide Health, Wellness, and Special Programs at the Bureau of Workers' Compensation. She has a Ph.D. in Public Health with a concentration in epidemiology, a master's degree in public health, an undergraduate degree in microbiology, and is licensed as a registered nurse.

ODH officials warn the death data on the public dashboard could change as they work to update it with the correct numbers. The investigation into the incident continues.

Copyright 2021 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Jo Ingles
Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.