Why the local health department doesn’t report positivity rate per county
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - According to new data from the White House, five counties in the 13 News viewing area are in the ‘Red Zone,’ including Warren, Simpson, Metcalfe, Monroe, and Green counties.
The data refers to ‘red zone’ counties, meaning they each have positivity rates believed to be above 10 percent.
“It’s just another piece of the puzzle,” said Layne Blackwell, Barren River Regional Epidemiologist.
These rates are calculated using all positive and negative test results. Meanwhile, there’s been some confusion on where the White House is getting their data to calculate the positivity rate as many health departments don’t receive negative results.
“I don’t know where they’re getting their data from,” said Mason Barnes, Simpson County Judge Executive.
“Every place that I know to inquire that could possibly give me a number on how many residents have been tested, and every place I’ve gone has said there’s no way I can tell you an exact number on this,” he added.
The Barren River District Health Department says they do not release the positivity rates because they don’t have all the data to calculate it accurately.
“A lot of those negative labs, they don’t come into us, so we can’t accurately calculate that positivity rate, so we don’t like to use the positivity rate on a local level,” said Blackwell.
Barnes says he is concerned about the possible margin for error surrounding the data.
“I think we’re doing a disservice for our community, especially if we don’t let our community know that there is definitely a margin of error in this number and try to give the community at least what margin of error there is,” he said. “Is the margin of error 10 percent, is the margin of error 15 percent, we don’t know that answer, I don’t know that answer.”
Since the Barren River District Health Department doesn’t have all the data to report positivity rates, they report ‘Incidence Rate.’
These are calculated by taking the total number of positive COVID persons divided by the total population per 10,000 persons. For example, in Warren County, there are roughly 234 positive cases per 10,000 people, according to the Barren River.
In Wednesday‘s press conference, Dr. Steven Stack, Commissioner of Kentucky Department for Public Health, acknowledged that local leaders have expressed concern and confusion about the data, but still does not want to dismiss it.
“So, the White House report and the governor has shown a version of this before, red and yellow counties, they describe their own methodology about how they arrive at that, he said. “The White House Coronavirus Task Force is the curator for that information, so they’re the ones responsible for how they produce it and you can ask them if you have any additional questions about how they produce it and make those decisions.”
“Not all counties get the same degree of data, it is difficult to get that at all the county levels with consistency. Now, the White House has different data sources and different approaches.”
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