Vermont raises COVID-19 death toll after entry errors

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — The Vermont Health Department on Friday increased the state’s COVID-19 death toll by nearly 11% after a review found that more than 80 deaths hadn’t been properly entered into a state database.

The increase in deaths from 791 to 877 since the start of the pandemic was attributed in part of a reduction in staff as the COVID-19 emergency wound down.

The state’s health commissioner, Dr. Mark Levine, said in a statement that the department was dedicated to consistent surveillance and accurate reporting.

“I regret that these data were not reported in a more timely manner, but it is important to understand that because these deaths occurred over time — and spread across many months from across the state — we are confident this would not have had an impact on the trajectory of the data or on our approach to the pandemic.”

Despite the increase, Vermont’s COVID-19 death rate is still the lowest in the nation, according to the health department.

Most of the 86 additional deaths happened in 2022.

The additional deaths were identified after a review of COVID-19 data that was prompted by the discovery of several reports that hadn’t been properly entered into the state’s epidemiology surveillance system. The health department then did a thorough review of the records and found the additional deaths.

The additional deaths will be included when the health department’s data portal is updated Jan. 11.