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Experts say change in positivity rate reporting will create more accurate data

TxDSHS will calculate positivity rate on a daily basis
Published: Sep. 15, 2020 at 7:12 PM CDT
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - The Texas Department of State Health Services said it will now “primarily rely” on a new calculation of the daily positivity rate — defined as the share of tests that yield positive results — that takes into account the date on which a COVID-19 test was administered.

All that to say, they’re attempting to make a more accurate snapshot of what the true positivity rate is by accounting for certain variables that the old way just wasn’t providing.

To get a better idea of what that means and how it will affect the way we handle COVID-19 moving forward, we sat down with Dr. Seth Sullivan, the Brazos County Alternate Health Authority.

“The advantage is that it’s a daily rate,” Dr. Sullivan explains.

He says the new way of reporting the positivity rate will help avoid backlogs of tests from becoming outliers that skew the data.

“We talk about the positivity rates as an important determinant to policy,” Dr. Sullivan says. But he says it’s a challenge to use that metric when it’s not being monitored in real-time.

That’s where the new system comes into play.

“This new system will allow it to be reported on a daily basis as opposed to all of these that have come in almost in a backlog situation. So our policy, our system here which is getting through these cases as quickly as possible we try to avoid backlog cases that have occurred multiple times we just have more cases than we can get through and nobody wants to be in that situation so a lot of work up here at the health district of ensuring that we have enough individuals to get through these cases and we can get them reported in a timely manner.”

Dr. Seth Sullivan, Brazos County Alternate Health Authority

Dr. Sullivan explains that this won’t change the way information is reported at the county level. Instead, he said this new system will take the existing data that the state is receiving from counties and maximize its potential to tell the most accurate story of what’s going on in our community and our state at-large.

But Dr. Sullivan says this is not a condemnation of the old method for calculating positivity rates.

“The way we calculate the rate is still the same,” Dr. Sullivan says, “the numerator is the positive tests, the denominator is still the tests that have been done.”

He says the new method will cause the positivity rate will be more volatile than before, but he says that’s a good thing because it will more accurately reflect the current status of COVID-19 in our community.

Watch the full interview in the player above.

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