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Health Officials Debunk COVID-19 Case Counting Conspiracy

Gov. Mike DeWine points to chart that demonstrates the potential increase in coronavirus cases.
Andy Chow
Gov. Mike DeWine points to chart that demonstrates the potential increase in coronavirus cases.

State officials are pushing back against the false claim that COVID-19 cases are being counted more than once, saying the conspiracy theory derives from people misreading the reporting data.

The Ohio Department of Health and multiple local health departments from around the state say people who test positive for COVID-19 are only counted once.

They say the false claim that individuals are counted more than once is a misunderstanding of the Ohio Disease Reporting System spreadsheets.

Lines in the spreadsheet list COVID-19 cases based on demographics including county, sex, age range, and the date symptoms started.

The latest data from the Ohio Disease Reporting System can be found here. Click on the link "Download the summary data".

Mahoning County health commissioner Ryan Tecak says situations of people misinterpreting the data can happen due to the volume of information on COVID-19 provided to the public.

"From a public health standpoint we want to be as transparent as we can. But before we start to interpret data from a public standpoint, if there's questions, definitely go to the professionals who are collecting the data and to ask those questions," says Tecak.

Gov. Mike DeWine has made a public plea to Ohio to take COVID-19 seriously by wearing masks and observing social distance.

"We must act now, and we must act now. This is not a drill. And this is certainly not any hoax. This is not a dress rehearsal. It’s the real thing. The enemy is here and Ohioans have simply come too far in this fight to cede ground now," DeWine said during a statewide address on Wednesday.

House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford), who has been critical of certain health orders issued by the DeWine Administration during the pandemic, mentioned the claim of "double counting" during a briefing with reporters. He didn't say that he believed that claim but said he wonders about the data coming from the state.

"I think people criticize those things," says Householder. "Do I question numbers? Yes. I question numbers when OBM (Office of Budget and Management) comes in and says 'here's what the revenue's going to be for the next quarter' I look pretty closely at them. I question those numbers. That's sort of my job."

This conspiracy theory of individuals being counted multiple times started circulating on a cable news outlet and social media.

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

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.