Number of COVID-19 deaths confirmed by local public health units is nearly double what Ontario is reporting

Data from Ontario’s 34 local public health units shows that at least 68 people infected with the novel coronavirus have died, a number nearly double what provincial officials reported Wednesday morning.

In its 10:30 a.m. update, the province reported 37 deaths. But as of noon, the data gathered by CTV News Toronto shows the number of COVID-19-related deaths in the province adds up to 68.

When asked about the discrepancy at a 3 p.m. news conference held at Queen’s Park, Ontario’s Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffe said she was “kind of surprised” by the difference in numbers.

“We are using the data that the health units put into the database, the integrated Public Health Information System (iPHIS), as of yesterday at 4 p.m.,” she said. “That’s the data that goes onto the website this morning at 10:30 a.m. and that was 37 (deaths).”

“As I’ve also mentioned, there have been in iPHIS 12 deaths related to outbreaks in long-term care and because some are lab confirmed and some are not, it’s not clear how many of those 12 are in the 37, but even if none of them were, which I’m sure some of them are, 37 plus 12 still doesn’t make 68 so I’m not sure how to explain that.”

iPHIS is described by officials as an information system for the reporting and surveillance of diseases of public health significance in Ontario.

Public health units across the province are expected to input their COVID-19-related data, including fatalities, into iPHIS on a regular basis and then the province releases its daily case counts at 10:30 a.m.

“The daily summary is based on data reported by the 34 public health units across Ontario and recorded in the province’s iPHIS,” the government’s website states. “iPHIS is the Ministry of Health’s disease reporting system where data is regularly updated. Data for each day’s summary will be pulled from iPHIS at 4:00 p.m. the previous day.”

When asked if there was a better way to track this data moving forward, Yaffe said at this moment she cannot think of a more efficient model.

“I’ve spoken to the health units. We meet regularly with the medical officers of health about the critical importance of putting the data into iPHIS as soon as possible,” she said.

“I realize they are very busy and there are a lot of things happening and putting data into a database doesn’t feel that important, but it is important so we can be as up to date as possible and as transparent as possible – that’s what we all want.”

In an exclusive interview with CTV News Toronto on Wednesday afternoon, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said information regarding this matter is being shared between the province’s top doctors and the government “every single day, numerous times a day.”

“Every morning it differs, some mornings it might be an hour longer or later – I can’t speak on that one issues, I would have to look into it, but we are getting pretty accurate information coming through the Chief Medical Officer of Health’s department, along with the Minister of Health,” he said.

Here is a breakdown of COVID-19-related deaths in each public health unit as of Wednesday at noon:

Algoma Public Health – 0

Brant County Health Unit – 0

Chatham-Kent Public Health – 0

Durham Region Health Department – 5

Eastern Ontario Health Unit – 0

Grey Bruce Health Unit – 0

Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit – 2

Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit – 13

Halton Region Health Department – 1

City of Hamilton Public Health Services – 1

Hastings Prince Edward Public Health Services – 1

Huron Perth Public Health – 1

Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington Public Health – 0

Lambton Public Health – 5

Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit – 2

Middlesex-London Health Unit – 3

Niagara Region Public Health – 4

North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit – 0

Northwestern Health Unit – 0

Ottawa Public Health – 3

Peel Public Health – 1

Peterborough Public Health – 0

Porcupine Health Unit – 0

Public Health Sudbury & Districts – 0

Renfrew County & District Health Unit – 1

Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit – 4

Southwestern Public Health – 2

Thunder Bay District Health Unit – 0

Timiskaming Health Unit – 0

Toronto Public Health – 11

Region of Waterloo Public Health – 2

Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health – 0

Windsor-Essex County Health Unit – 1

York Region Public Health – 5

-- With files from CP24's Chris Herhalt and CTV News Toronto's Scott Lightfoot