HealthcareStatewide NewsTexas Coronavirus Positivity Rate Plummets After Record High Set From System Error

State officials say that the record high positivity rate that just plummeted occurred after a system error undercounted COVID-19 tests.
August 18, 2020
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Last week, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) reported a record high coronavirus positivity rate while the number of hospitalizations continued to descend.

Now, DSHS says that the high positive rate was caused in part because of a computer error in the state’s reporting system.

While the state usually updates its COVID-19 statistics every day in the late afternoon or evening, DSHS did not report any new numbers on August 2 because of an upgrade to its reporting system.

The change reportedly increased the capacity of tests that the state could process in order to reduce the backlog experienced with the high number of tests processed in July.

After the change, the average number of tests processed per day plummeted from 61,000 on August 1 to a low 35,000 ten days later.

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Though the number of reported tests had decreased, the number of positive cases remained fairly steady, causing the positivity rate to spike to an all-time high of 24.5 percent.

DSHS reportedly said that when the system was upgraded in early August, the digital files sent to DSHS from a private lab contained information that the system did not read.

On August 12, after the error was identified, the state added over 120,000 new tests, of which only 4.5 percent were positive.

The high number of negative tests caused the skyrocketing positivity rate to plummet, dropping from near 25 percent to 16 percent.

Since then, the rate has leveled out even further to 11.3 percent, just slightly below its level in late July before the system update.

Prior to the spike, the positive rate had gone up with the surge of cases in June and July, but began declining from mid- to late-July.

At press conferences last week prior to the discovery of the error, Governor Greg Abbott said that a contributing factor to the high positive rate could be the decreased surge testing of coronavirus “hot-spots” and nursing homes.

Abbott said that in the coming weeks, “you should anticipate seeing another increase in the number of people being tested.”

The number of coronavirus-related hospitalizations, the hospitalization rate, and the number of active cases are continuing in a downward trend.

Data from DSHS last week showed that the number of COVID-19-related deaths had reached a high on July 14 before slowly declining, but updated data has moved the peak to July 22, which now shows a few higher number of deaths.

The weekly average of newly reported deaths has held about constant for the past ten days.

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Daniel Friend

Daniel Friend

Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.