Coroner: At Least Five COVID-19 Deaths in Venango County Since Friday

| November 17, 2020

VENANGO CO., Pa. (EYT) – Venango County Coroner Christina Rugh reported there have been seven deaths among COVID-19 positive Venango County residents since Friday.

According to Rugh, a total of 12 deaths among people who were COVID-19 positive at their time of death have occurred in Venango County since the beginning of the pandemic. However, several of those deaths were individuals who resided outside the county.

“The first person whose death was reported to my office had an address in Armstrong County. So even though that person died here, they were counted in Armstrong County,” Rugh told exploreVenango.com.

Rugh also noted that the one individual who was previously counted by the Department of Health as a Venango County resident death was an individual who died at a facility in Erie County.

According to Rugh, the seven people whose deaths have been reported since Friday have all been Venango County residents.

Rugh noted five of the seven are confirmed to have died from COVID-19, according to their death certificates. She has not yet received the death certificates with the cause of death for the other two individuals.

Out of the five confirmed COVID-19 deaths, Rugh said four occurred at Oil City Healthcare & Rehabilitation. One of the unconfirmed COVID-19 deaths also occurred at the same facility.

The other confirmed COVID-19 death occurred at the individual’s home, according to Rugh, while the final unconfirmed COVID-19 death occurred at UPMC Northwest Hospital.

According to Rugh, the individuals who died were all in their upper 60s to 90s and had other preexisting conditions.

As of Monday, November 16, the Pennsylvania Department of Health still only listed one COVID-19 death in Venango County.

According to Rugh, the lag in reporting from the Department of Health is due to a decision made at the state level.

Rugh said that while the Department of Health has encouraged anyone in charge of death certificates to file them through an electronic system known as EDRS, many doctors are still filing their paperwork manually, using a Medical Certification Worksheet.

That paperwork is then faxed to a funeral home, and the funeral home faxes it to the Department of Vital Records. Once it reaches that destination, it is finally entered into the electronic system.

“The lag time is with that manual entering of information once the medication certification gets faxed in.”

She noted that the online system is currently reporting medical certifications are taking two to five days to process.

“This is a frustration for coroners,” Rugh said.

Rugh also noted that legislation that would have required all COVID-19 deaths to be reported through the county coroners’ offices was vetoed earlier this year due to fears that would create a lag time in reporting.

“In actuality, if you see things now, it’s just the opposite.”

While the process and the lag time in reporting it has created is a frustration, Rugh noted that area healthcare facilities have been in touch with her office regularly.

“They’ve been wonderful throughout this whole process. Their staff has been very good to work with when it comes to reporting things to me. We’re fortunate to have staff here that are willing to work with other agencies.”


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