Texas changes COVID-19 positivity calculation amid backlogs: 7 details

Texas will change the way it calculates its COVID-19 positivity rate as it faces challenges due to the backlogged data being entered into its system, according to a Sept. 14 report from the Texas Tribune.

Seven things to know:

1. The state's previous positivity rate calculation mixed old data with new data which "muddied the extent of viral transmission" according to the report. The new calculation takes the date which the COVID-19 test was administered into account.

2. State officials reported the new metric will more accurately represent COVID-19 transmissions.

3. Texas' daily positivity rate will fluctuate as lab results are collected and reported over time and state officials recalculate the daily rates when more results are reported. Some of the data arrives weeks or months after the test is administered, according to the report.

4. The Texas health department began reporting the positivity rate with the old and new system on Sept. 14, and added a third positivity rate metric based on a when labs report results to a national disease surveillance system.

5. State officials also report improving technology in the past month so the health department can track test results by administration date. The state hired Persivia to improve the data reporting process and Deloitte joined the Texas information resources department to improve data quality and transparency.

6. The state is still experiencing backlogs and on Sept. 13, a health department email showed HCA Houston Healthcare had 205,000 test results backlogged including 21,366 positive cases. Some of the backlogged results were from as far back as March.

7. Baylor Scott &White and the health department's Austin-based lab had around 140,000 test results that encountered a "routing error" that stopped them from being processed in the national disease surveillance system, although some of the cases were reported to local health departments.

"I wish I could guarantee there would never be another IT issue that interrupts lab reports, but that's probably not realistic," said Chris Van Deusen, a spokesperson for the Texas health department, in an email to the Tribune.

More articles on data analytics:
HHS sought to delay, change CDC morbidity and mortality reports, citing 'political content'
California news outlets collaborate on COVID-19 data efforts
'We feel like we were data shamed': Christus' Dr. Sam Bagchi on COVID-19 reporting issues



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