Ohio COVID-19 death error: State epidemiologist reassigned, employee involved in count resigns

Ohio COVID-19 death error: State epidemiologist reassigned, employee involved in count resigns
Ohio Department of Health headquarters. (Source: Joshua A. Bickel/ Columbus Dispatch)

CINCINNATI - An Ohio Department of Health employee involved in an error that withheld one-third of the state’s COVID-19 cases from the public count has resigned.

According to our media partners at the Cincinnati Enquirer, Ohio Department of Health Director Stephanie McCloud said Thursday that one employee had been responsible for reviewing death certificate data and reconciling that data with a separate database used by physicians and health departments. The department learned last week that roughly 4,000 deaths were not properly added to the count since October.

Karthik Kondapally, an epidemiology investigator, was placed on administrative leave while the health department investigated the error, an agency spokeswoman said Thursday in response to questions about the employee mentioned by McCloud. By Friday morning, Kondapally had resigned, a different spokeswoman confirmed.

Kondapally had worked for the department for nearly five years and earned $79,000 last year, according to OhioCheckbook.com.

The health department discovered the undercounted deaths during a routine employee training. The process of reconciling deaths between the two databases must be done manually, McCloud said.

McCloud said Thursday that no one had been fired.

Yet the department’s Bureau of Infectious Diseases chief, Sietske de Fijter, was reassigned to a position in the Bureau of Health Improvement and Wellness. De Fijter, the state epidemiologist, is a 23-year veteran of the department who earned about $135,900 last year.

Kristen Dickerson has been appointed chief of the Bureau of Infectious Diseases. Dickerson previously served as the statewide manager for Health, Wellness and Special Programs at the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. Dickerson is a registered nurse and has a master’s degree in public health.

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