FILE - Coronavirus Outbreak i

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, orange, emerging from the surface of cells, green, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19.

Delaware's death toll from COVID-19 has surpassed 500, with the bulk of new deaths reported Tuesday being attributed to a recent Delaware Division of Public Health audit of death records.

The Delaware DPH reported 69 new fatalities on Tuesday, which brings the overall death toll from the virus to 504. But division director Dr. Karyl Rattay said the majority of deaths reported on June 23, 2020, were not recent, and some may date back to the very start of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. 

"We learned of another state that identified that they were missing some information, where cases or deaths weren't being reported to them, so our team took a look at the death certificate information, and we identified 67 additional deaths that were not previously reported to us," said Rattay.

Rattay said 32 were confirmed positive cases.

"We just did not know that that person was deceased," she said. 

Thirty-five of the newly reported deaths weren't confirmed as COVID-19 positive with a lab sample.

"The physician who put the information into the death certificate used COVID-19 as an underlying cause of death, therefore, by CDC definition, those cases are also considered COVID-19 deaths because those 35 don't have a positive lab result...they are considered 'probable' COVID-19 deaths," Rattay said.

Also, 75% of the new 67 deaths were individuals who died in long-term care facilities and weren't immediately reported to DPH.

"So DPH is now reaching out to the facilities or organizations that did not report this information to make sure that they are fully aware that they need to be reporting deaths to DPH," she said. "But we're also now, as part of data quality process, looking at our death certificates on a weekly basis going forward to make sure that we're keeping up with any cases that may not have been reported to us."

Officials also warn that further weekly reviews of death records could result in more significant increases in the number of total deaths.

Before Tuesday's increase, at least two-thirds of Delaware's overall deaths from COVID-19 occurred in long-term care centers, and more than 85% of Delaware's total fatalities were individuals, who suffered from an underlying health conditions.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 did increase for a third straight day. That number now stands at 91.

"[That's] still comfortably below our ability, our hospital capacity to treat COVID-19 patients, but concerning in terms of the existence and severity of the virus in our communities," said Governor John Carney at his weekly coronavirus news conference. "I did talk to our hospitals earlier today, and it was their view that this uptick is nothing to be too concerned about, although it's something, a blip, that we're going to keep our eye on."

On a brighter note, the state only recorded 27 new positive virus cases from yesterday's report...and the number of active cases decreased by more than 100 - thanks to a big surge in the number of recovered patients.

The percentage of new test results that came back positive remained below 3.5%.