Texas adjusts COVID-19 reporting, eliminating active case count after quarantine rule changes

The Texas Department of State Health Services has made some sweeping changes to its COVID-19...
The Texas Department of State Health Services has made some sweeping changes to its COVID-19 dashboard(Texas Department of State Health Services)
Published: Jan. 18, 2022 at 12:27 PM CST
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AUSTIN, Texas (KBTX) - The Texas Department of State Health Services has updated its COVID-19 dashboard, making significant changes to the way COVID-19 cases are displayed. Possibly the most noticeable change will be the removal of active and recovered case totals from the state’s data tools.

Chris Van Deusen, Director of Media Relations for DSHS, said this decision was made for multiple reasons. The cases were removed in part because the state had difficulty assigning them to a specific year. More importantly, Van Deusen said the changing criteria of what is considered an active COVID-19 case makes their estimates almost insubstantial.

At the start of the pandemic in 2020, the CDC recommended that people infected with COVID-19 should quarantine for 14 days. Now, the CDC says people with COVID-19 should isolate for five days, and if they’re asymptomatic or their symptoms are resolving, they can come out of quarantine if they wear a mask.

Van Deusen said this change in recommendations has made it hard to distinguish what an active case is. Instead, DSHS is now focusing on reporting new confirmed and probable cases. According to DSHS, a confirmed case is someone who has tested positive through a molecular test that looks for the virus’s genetic material. A probable case is someone who has either tested positive through an antigen test or has a combination of symptoms and a known exposure to someone with COVID-19 without a more likely diagnosis. Adding both probable and confirmed cases is how DSHS calculates total daily cases.

Focusing on that new data point will create a more accurate picture of COVID-19 in Texas counties, according to Van Deusen.

DSHS has also finalized their 2020 data, which they say is standard practice for public health reporting. DSHS epidemiologists review year-end data to correct errors and get the most accurate accounting of disease cases possible, according to a statement from DSHS. The final 2020 total will increase the total number of confirmed and probable cases in Texas by about .5%.

Under the adjusted data, the state had 1,620,499 confirmed COVID-19 cases in 2020. Brazos County ended 2020 with 13,836 confirmed cases and 145 deaths. Tuesday, Brazos County had a total of 46,195 confirmed cases since the beginning of the pandemic, along with 364 deaths.

Data for new confirmed and probable cases by county is available on the DSHS website in an Excel spreadsheet. Archived data of reported active and recovered cases is also available on that page.

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