RICHMOND — The recent surge in COVID-19 cases due to the Omicron variant resulted in an increase in COVID-19-associated deaths, and the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) is beginning to observe these expected increases in death certificates received.
Beginning Feb. 2, VDH’s Cases dashboard began to reflect these deaths. The majority of the COVID-19-associated deaths (92%) that will be added occurred in January 2022. Certified death certificates continue to be reported, so VDH will continue to receive new death certificates for the deaths that occurred in January 2022 and those that will occur subsequently over the next few weeks and months ahead until the Omicron surge dissipates.
“Those deaths will also appear on the VDH Localities dashboard, but since Localities shows deaths by date of report, rather than by date of death, that dashboard should not be used to evaluate any trend in the pattern of deaths over time,” said Acting State Health Commissioner Colin M. Greene. “As noted above, most of the deaths that appear on the Localities dashboard this week actually occurred in January and earlier, so please use the Cases dashboard for looking at patterns and trends.”
The best defense against COVID-19 infection, hospitalization and death remains vaccination and, once fully vaccinated, staying up-to-date on your vaccine. To see the impact vaccination has on infection, hospitalization and death, view the VDH Case Rates by Vaccination Status dashboard.
COVID-19 death trends should only be evaluated when viewing the data on the Cases dashboard by “date of death” and not by “date of report.”
VDH receives certified death certificates weekly and compares them to COVID-19-associated deaths already reported in the surveillance system. Those that have not been reported through normal reporting channels are then added.
The increase in deaths reported now is due to:
- The surge in cases being reported due to the Omicron variant.
- The natural delay between onset of illness to death. (e.g. someone is diagnosed with COVID-19 January 1 and does not die until January 30).
- The time it takes for the National Center of Health Statistics to review and assign appropriate codes to Virginia death certificates before they are sent back to VDH for inclusion in the Supplemental COVID-19 Death Certificate Surveillance initiative.
For more information on how VDH counts COVID-19-Associated Deaths, read this VDH coronavirus blog post.