In Alabama, the positivity rate for coronavirus tests reached 16.9 percent as of Thursday – the highest it’s been since mid-September.

But it’s hard to compare that rate over time, because data backlogs and changes in reporting here have made comparisons difficult. State data is messy and getting messier.

On Sept. 1, for instance, the state changed the way it reports tests and removed about 27,000 tests from the logs. And this week, roughly 2,500 new probable cases in Mobile weren’t accompanied by a similar increase in tests.

The data issues can make it difficult to monitor progress in Alabama. For example, this week the Alabama Department of Public Health reported more than 10,000 coronavirus cases in the state, but that includes those 2,500 from a backlog at a local lab in Mobile County. Those cases were from some time between June and October 18. And maybe some came from other counties near Mobile.

Prior to the large influx on Friday from that backlog, the state was seeing a rise in new cases. The 7-day average for total new virus cases reached 1,128 in Alabama on Thursday. That’s the highest it’s been since Sept. 5.

[Can’t see the chart? Click here.]

But the increase in new cases hasn’t been accompanied by an equal increase in tests. Between Oct. 1 and Oct. 22, the 7-day average for new cases has gone up by about five percent. Over the same span, the 7-day average for daily tests has done down by 23 percent.

The World Health Organization in May suggested countries should have positivity rates lower than 5 percent for at least 14 days before reopening.

Within Alabama, from county to county, positivity rates are all over the map.

[Can’t see the map? Click here.]

As of Thursday, Lamar County in northwest Alabama had the highest rate in the state at 45 percent. In the week leading up to Thursday, 37 cases were reported in Lamar County, and just 83 tests.

DeKalb County, in northeast Alabama, had a similar positivity rate with nearly 10 times the test numbers. More than 42 percent of the 720 tests performed there over that span came back positive.

No Alabama counties were below 5 percent positivity rate as of Thursday.

[Can’t see the chart? Click here.]

Probable cases primarily include those found through antigen testing, and also those without any confirmed test but where the person has symptoms and has been in close contact with a confirmed case. The large increase in probables, along with confirmed cases, made this week’s total the highest since early August.

But that’s probably not a fair representation. Clicking on the ‘confirmed cases’ tab on the chart above controls for backlogs of probable cases and better shows the rise over recent weeks.

Confirmed cases are those with a positive molecular test, which takes longer but is considered more accurate. And though confirmed cases are slightly up, reported deaths are down significantly this week. The state reported 73 total virus deaths this week, including 56 confirmed deaths.

[Can’t see the chart? Click here.]

Hospitalizations increased slightly this week, but don’t seem to be surging. The 7-day average for current hospitalizations reached 848 on Friday, the highest that number has been since Sept. 9.

The 888 current virus patients at Alabama hospitals reported on Friday was the most in any one day since Sept. 3. That’s still well below the high of more than 1,600 inpatients set in early August.

[Can’t see the chart? Click here.]

Do you have an idea for a data story about Alabama? Email Ramsey Archibald at rarchibald@al.com, and follow him on Twitter @RamseyArchibald. Read more Alabama data stories here.





Source link