By Nicole Montesano • Staff Writer • 

State reports 550 COVID deaths missed; county announces two new deaths

The Oregon Health Authority on Thursday announced that 550 deaths from COVID-19, most of which took place between May and August, “only became recently known to state epidemiologists due to a technical computer error.”

Those deaths will show up in daily reports over the next month, as they are reviewed during the state’s data reconciliation process, it said.

Director Patrick Allen apologized for the missed reports.

“We are taking steps to ensure that our reporting is comprehensive and transparent. We extend our condolences to everyone who has suffered a loss to COVID-19, and we deeply regret the pain this disclosure may cause,” Allen said in a press release.

The agency said it manually reconciles death records to case records, which periodically leads to backlogs in reporting of deaths.

As of Wednesday, the state had recorded 4,235 deaths from COVID-19, not including the 550; the sixth-lowest death rate in the nation. Nationwide, there have been more than 700,000 deaths. Yamhill County has suffered 113 deaths from COVID-19.

The new report is expected to “push Oregon’s death rate past one or two other states. However, Oregon’s death rate will remain well below the national average and the fatality rates of most other states,” the OHA said in a press release.

However, it said, “State health officials estimate that if Oregon’s death rate matched the national average, another 4,000 or more Oregonians would have died from COVID-19. Health officials attribute Oregon’s comparatively low death rate to vaccinations, mask wearing and other social distancing measures, which Oregonians have practiced to a greater extent than residents of many other states.

“Death is a lagging indicator and generally follows a surge in cases. In addition, there is often a delay in reporting as OHA epidemiologists review death certificates. 
“OHA expects that reported deaths may continue to be high even as daily case counts decrease. This is due to the time period between when a person tests positive for a case of COVID-19 and when they die with COVID-19,” the press release said.

Researchers estimate about a third of people who become infected with COVID-19 suffer long-term effects, even if the initial cases were mild, according to the University of Washington.

Yamhill County announced 29 new cases of COVID-19 and two deaths on Thursday. There have been 8,675 cases to date in the county. The county reports that 63.4% of residents 12 and older are fully vaccinated.


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