Brazos County Health District ends local COVID-19 reporting

Data will still be reported directly to state health officials
Published: Jan. 21, 2022 at 5:55 PM CST
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - In a virtual press conference Friday, the Brazos County Health District said it would no longer process COVID-19 cases at the local level, ending their locally-produced COVID-19 dashboard.

The change comes as Brazos County and the State of Texas are experiencing all-time record highs for infected cases and surging hospitalizations. During the press conference Dr. Seth Sullivan, the Brazos County Health Authority, said the health district can’t keep up with the influx of COVID-19 cases.

“We estimate we may have about 7,000 active cases, so clearly we can’t keep up with the number of cases that are available to do case investigations,” said Sullivan.

Friday, the health district reported more than 700 new cases of COVID-19 in Brazos County. Active cases reached a record high of 3,697 with more than 6,000 raw cases still needing to be investigated.

“We have so many cases that we just can’t do this. I don’t know how else to say it,” said Sullivan.

Instead, the health district will now rely solely on the reporting from the Texas state COVID-19 dashboard, which state officials announced Tuesday will be eliminating active and recovered cases following changes to quarantine rules that make it difficult to define what cases are currently active.

“The current change is inevitable and I don’t see any other way of doing this, and neither do any other of the stakeholders here,” said Sullivan. “We’re doing the best that we can to provide real-time information and this is the best way to do it.”

By using the data from Texas Department of State Health Services, Sullivan said they’ll have more timely and accurate information. He said the information BCHD has been using hasn’t been accurate, but didn’t give a time frame for how long it’s been that way.

“Let’s take one step back. The dashboard is not as accurate as it could be right now. It’s not accurate. We just can’t get all that information in there.”

At-home tests are not always reported to the health district and there’s been a backlog in raw cases for several weeks. These and other factors led to a consistent undercounting of cases.

Sullivan said elected officials in the area were notified of the change about a “week or two ago.” He said they trusted the health district to make the best decisions for the community moving forward. Sullivan stressed this change in reporting doesn’t mean the pandemic is over or that people should stop taking precautions.

In an email sent to KBTX on Tuesday, the health district said they were still actively deciding how their reporting would look following the change in the state’s COVID-19 dashboard.

“We still have an epidemiologist. We still have a team, and so we’re still here. We’re still always working and always in the background doing things. As we see things that become important to communicate, we’ll continue to communicate.”

When asked how the information would be communicated, the health district was less than clear.

“We provide information Monday through Friday, more on a daily basis, but moving forward it will be not daily,” said Sarah Mendez, Brazos County Health District Support Services Manager. “So we will be able to provide information, as Dr. Sullivan said, if we see there’s concerns with increases in hospitalizations or deaths and things like that. But it won’t be a daily update of demographics.”

Watch the full press conference below:

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