138 new deaths reported in Ohio, but Acton explains death data can be ‘tricky to interpret’

Number of cases in Cleveland decreases
Posted at 3:09 PM, Apr 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-29 23:21:15-04

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Total reported coronavirus-related deaths in Ohio jumped by 138 Wednesday to 937, marking a significant jump in deaths related to COVID-19 since the outbreak began. It's nearly triple the five-day reported death average of 49. Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton reminded Ohioans that the data does not reflect deaths that occured within the last 24 hours, but rather deaths that the state has been made aware of.

"Our death numbers will increase over months," she said. "This date today in April the 29th. The people who actually died today, we’ll be learning about them in weeks and even months to come, and that’s why death data can be a little tricky to interpret.”

Despite the reported increase Wednesday, Acton said what the state has been doing has made a significant difference in cases and deaths related to COVID-19.

“I’ve been looking at data of deaths in countries that did or didn’t institute the sort of the measures we’ve taken over the last month and a half to two, and even looking around the country, what Ohioans did together drastically decreased our illness,” Acton said. “It drastically decreased our deaths compared to many places around the world. We didn’t do that just by ordering it. We did it by all of us doing it together.”

Total cases across the state increased by 534 to 17,303 on Wednesday, the highest number of new daily cases since April 23, but nowhere near the peak of the new cases between April 18 and April 20, which were all above 1,000.

Acton also noted that while ICU admissions have ticked down, total hospitalizations have increased slightly.

Cleveland reported 18 new cases and one new death.

NOTE: These interactive visualizations are updated daily with new data. If you are seeing this story more than 24 hours later, the graphics may not necessarily reflect the data from when this story was published.

With Ohio set to start reopening in just a couple days, a doctor at the Cleveland Clinic said Wednesday's numbers don't necessarily indicate there's something new going on.

Dr. James Simon, medical director for enterprise analytics at the Cleveland Clinic, said the number of deaths reported Wednesday reflect what was happening a couple weeks ago.

"You want to be careful about a single day’s report," Simon said, noting that trends are more informative.

He said the increase in deaths reported Wednesday could be due to a lag in hospitals reporting that information to the state, or it could be the 12- to 14-day delay between when someone is exposed to when that person is sick enough to go to the hospital or even die from the virus.

"Some people unfortunately pass away right away, but a lot of people, it takes awhile," Simon said.

Simon urged people not to lose focus on the fact that these numbers are human lives.

"We want to mourn all the people that we’re losing because of this. It’s unfortunate," Simon said. "Just keep that in mind as we talk about modeling and statistics."

Simon said the Cleveland Clinic has used daily hospital admissions as its key metric to assess what's going on during the COVID-19 pandemic, since that information is more consistent across hospitals, as far as how sick someone must be to be hospitalized.

He said admissions have been stable in Northeast Ohio and trending slightly down in Ohio as a whole.

Given all of that, Simon said reopening in phases makes sense.

"A, to see what the impact will be and see if it’s as minimal as expected, but also to be able to make decisions based on triggers," Simon said.

He said hospitals are closely monitoring any potential surge of new cases.

"I do want to remind people, this is the same virus we had two months ago," Simon said. "It’s just as contagious, and just because the social distancing has worked doesn’t mean that we don’t need to do it anymore."

While social distancing, masking and other strategies are critical, Dr. Simon said good testing and tracing will also help blunt any surge of the virus before it becomes a problem again.