Death audit

This graph shows the difference between previously reported COVID-19 death numbers in Indiana and updated numbers after a year-end audit of all death certificates in the state. Most of the discrepancy came later in 2020 and in January 2021.

INDIANAPOLIS — A year-end audit of death certificates completed by the state resulted in more than 1,500 new deaths being added to the state’s all-time total, including 33 deaths in the four-county area.

The data update takes the state’s all-time death count to 11,231.

Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box said the change came after state and local health department completed their year-end audit of death certificates, which has been complicated by the state changing over to a new system for entering death certificate information.

“We recently completed a year-end audit of our COVID-19 deaths, please understand that never before have local state departments of health had to present data in real time before it was fully vetted,” Box said.

The state continues to cross-check death information before adding to the state’s death count, counting it in the statewide total only if COVID-19 is listed as the “cause of death or contributing cause of death” and if that patient also had a positive COVID-19 test on file.

If a person never was tested for COVID-19 or if a doctor doesn’t list COVID as a contributing cause to the death, it’s not included in the statewide count.

“We have identified 1,205 additional COVID deaths from 2020 and 302 COVID deaths for 2021,” Box said.

The difference in the previous and reconciled death numbers start to show in August but most of the deaths previously unaccounted for were occurring later in the year, when the state was racking up hundreds of COVID-19 deaths per week.

The statewide reconciliation also lead to changes in local county death numbers, with a total of 33 new deaths reflected in Feb. 4’s dashboard.

DeKalb County still leads with 73 deaths, an increase of eight from its previous number of 65. Based on demographic data, those newly added deaths include four people 80 years old or older, three people in their 70s and the county’s first death of a person in their 50s.

To date, DeKalb County has had one death among people in their 50s, seven deaths among people in their 60s, 23 deaths of patients in their 70s and 42 deaths at the 80-plus age group.

Noble and LaGrange counties are now both at 70 all-time deaths, an increase of 11 for Noble and increase of seven for LaGrange County.

In Noble County, the newly added deaths include seven at the 80 and older group, two people in their 70s, and two in their 60s.

To date, three people in their 50s have died in Noble County along with seven people in their 60s, 16 people in their 70s and 44 at 80 or older.

In LaGrange County, the new deaths included three people at 80 and older, two in their 70s, and two in their 60s

To date, LaGrange County has had two deaths among people in their 50s, eight deaths among people in their 60s, 21 among people in their 70s and 39 people who were 80 or older.

And in Steuben County, the total death count rose by seven to 55 all-time. Demographics of those seven new deaths included four people at 80 years or older, two people in their 70s and one in their 60s.

Of the total deaths in Steuben County, one has been a person in his or her 40s, one in their 50s, 10 have been people in their 60s, 14 deaths have been people in their 70s, and 29 deaths have been among those 80 and older.

The disparity in original reported deaths and the audited numbers show a widened impact of the pandemic in late 2020, with significantly higher deaths that previously known, with most of the previously unaccounted for deaths happening in November, December and January.

Box also reported there were 90 deaths being added in the long-term care dashboard, deaths that were previously recorded at the statewide level but that had not been reflected to a particular nursing home.

There were no changes in long-term care deaths in the four counties this week, although any updates on the long-term care dashboard may show up next week when that updates on Feb. 10.

“These are heartbreaking number that show just how devastating this disease can be,” Box said.

Looking to the present, however, the state continues to see lower COVID-19 case and death numbers and improving positivity and hospitalizations.

The state logged 2,359 cases on Feb. 4, up from previous days but elevated because testing numbers were up at nearly 54,500 tests. The high testing number, however, resulted in low positivity, at just 4.33%.

It’s the second day that positivity was below 5%, the state’s benchmark for positivity rate. The state hasn’t been below 5% positivity consistently since September.

Subtracting out the historical deaths added Thursday, the state had just 11 new deaths reported on the day.

Hospitalizations across the state dropped to 1,541 total patients, down from recently days. That’s the lowest amount since Oct. 22.

Locally, case counts stayed low as they have in recent weeks.

Noble and DeKalb counties added 15 cases, Steuben County was up 13 and LaGrange County added six cases.

Noble and Steuben moved down to yellow rating via the state’s county metrics ratings this week, while LaGrange and DeKalb counties stay in orange.

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