Crunching the numbers: Officials question differing COVID-19 case numbers

Local News

OUACHITA PARISH, LA (KTVE/KARD) Ouachita Parish officials recently announced an issue regarding COVID-19 case reports. It started with a private list the Ouachita Parish Department of Homeland Security receives from the Louisiana Department of Health.

This list is only provided to first responders to ensure they have enough PPE when responding to calls, and specific information regarding the list remain private to the public due to HIPPA laws. DHS compared the numbers on the list to the number of cases on LDH’s website and they found a difference.

“It’s about 15%. We’re not being argumentative about the reporting. We’re just basically saying that we have some people that have been tested positive in Ouachita parish and in our region as many as 6, 7, 8 times.” Shane Smiley, President of Ouachita Parish Police Jury and Chairman of the Homeland Security Council said.

We contacted LDH about the numbers and this was their response:

Case counts reported on the LDH website represent individual persons with positive results for COVID-19, not numbers of positive test results received. An individual may be tested multiple times and receive multiple results (positive, negative or otherwise), but regardless of repeat tests that person is represented a single time for case counting.

 LDH uses an extensive de-duplication process involving automated and manual review to account for non-exact person matches due to data entry errors, incomplete data and other issues in the lab data reported to LDH. Also, great care is taken to correctly assign cases to a home parish to avoid duplication in instances where a person is tested in more than one parish.  

Despite our best efforts, there may still be a small number of duplicate records in our dataset, and these will be resolved as they are detected, which may lead to changes in case counts. The actual number of positive cases is likely higher than reported on the LDH website due to test reporting lags, incomplete testing, and undetected cases among asymptomatic individuals and those who become sick but never get tested. You never know who around you may be sick, which is why LDH continues to recommend personal protective measures including handwashing, wearing face masks and physical distancing of at least 6 feet from others.” – Sean Ellis, Public Information Officer | Bureau of Media and Communications, Louisiana Department of Health.

Smiley says its about providing the most accurate information possible.

“We weren’t trying to make an issue with LDH or anybody in Baton Rouge by no means. What we were just wanting to do was ensure we were reporting accurate numbers and that we had the accurate locations of COVID-19 positive individuals.” Smiley said.

Since then, they have noticed some changes.

“About a week ago when we made it known to the general public that we had duplicated numbers, our numbers that we’ve gotten from LDH have matched those on the dashboard. And we’re satisfied with that.”

The Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office conducted a report on two other parishes experiencing similar issues. To view this report, click here.

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