New COVID-19 Alert System Spotlights Differences Between County and State Data

New COVID-19 Alert System Spotlights Differences Between County and State Data

6:15pm Nov 18, 2020
The color-based county level COVID-19 alert system was unveiled on Tuesday. Screenshot courtesy of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

Forsyth County's public health director is applauding a new county-level COVID-19 alert system unveiled by the state Tuesday. 

The new system assigns a red, orange, or yellow alert level based on a county’s case rate, test positivity rate, and local hospital impact. Under it, Forsyth is orange, meaning substantial community spread.

Joshua Swift, the county’s public health director, says the system makes it easier for the public to understand their level of risk. But there are some differences between what the state uses to assign those alert levels and data released by the county. 

On Tuesday, the state health department had Forsyth County’s 14-day test positivity rate at 8.6%. The county had it at 14.4%

Swift says the discrepancy is related to how the county’s epidemiologist cleans the data for accuracy. 

“She scrubs the data that we get from the state to make sure that all results are for our Forsyth County residents, not just people that are tested in Forsyth County," said Swift. "The state cannot necessarily do that because they're looking out for 100 counties and not every county has an epidemiologist on staff that can do that.”

NCDHHS did not directly respond to this explanation but suggested the disparity could be because the state only uses electronically submitted lab reports to provide county-level testing data.

For the most up-to-date information on coronavirus in North Carolina, visit our Live Updates blog here. WFDD wants to hear your stories — connect with us and let us know what you’re experiencing. 

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