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Post-holiday COVID-19 surge in Virginia was deadlier than originally reported

The Virginia Department of Health is processing a backlog of 2021 death certificates. New daily COVID-19 death reports show more people died of the virus in January.

NORFOLK, Va. — In the past 10 days, the Virginia Department of Health added 1,685 COVID-19 related deaths to its coronavirus dashboard, including multiple days of record-high numbers. 

However, it's likely most of these people died weeks or even months ago.

VDH says it is processing a backlog of 2021 death certificates related to the post-holiday surge of COVID-19 cases.

As a result, VDH is reporting a larger number of deaths by report date, but those deaths don't necessarily correlate with the date someone died from COVID-19. The new data reflects a January and early February COVID-19 surge that was deadlier in Virginia than originally reported.

The number of Virginians dying from COVID-19 related illness has significantly dropped off since a mid-January peak.

For context, at the peak of the coronavirus surge in May, Virginia reported 52 deaths in one day. According to the most updated reporting, VDH says Virginia exceeded that record-high number of deaths at least 20 times during the month of January.

The Virginia Department of Health said when analyzing COVID-19 related deaths, "viewing the graph by date of death is the most appropriate way to view this data. A time delay is inevitable as the report is not received and recorded on the exact day of death."

VDH also said if someone dies of COVID-19 after a health district case investigation "and this result is identified upon review of the death certificate, it will be added at that time."

The health department continues to process 2021 death certificates and update its dashboard.