There has recently been an uptick in confirmed positive cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) around the country, state and locally.
The state has begun to make public two categories of cases not reported during the first two months of the pandemic.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, in March, there were four categories reported; confirmed, recovered, active and deaths.
In May, the state started to report probable cases. A probable case of COVID-19 is one that is not laboratory-confirmed but may meet case definition through a combination of symptoms, exposure, history and other lab tests, according to the state’s website.
“The purpose of a probable case definition is to identify cases that may not be able to receive a confirmatory test,” the website says.
The probable numbers go into the total case count, despite not being tested.
The newest category being made public but has always been a category is called “pending investigation.” These numbers also go into the total case count.
“This category was added to public reporting so that the counties can be more up to date on what is actually going on in their county ‘real-time’,” Memorial Medical Center Chief Nursing Officer Erin Clevenger said.
Clevenger stated people are reading the category and thinking it means people are waiting on lab results to come back, but that is incorrect.
“When a hospital or a lab receives a positive result on a person who lives in a county without a health department, it gets reported to the state health department who then begins their investigation. This consists of interviewing the patient and performing contact tracing. Once that investigation is complete, then the state health department notifies the local county officials, and that number gets reported in the county’s new cases,” Clevenger explained. “As the number of positive cases has grown swiftly over the last couple of weeks, it is taking the state health department longer than desired to complete their investigations. By informing the public of the pending investigations, people now know the number of positive tests that were actually reported over the last day and are waiting for the health department to finish their investigation.”
Clevenger said it can be difficult at times to handle all the analytics and statistics that come with reporting COVID-19 cases to the public. The categories can easily be misinterpreted if someone does not take the time to understand the definition of each one.
“This is an unprecedented situation, and I think the State is trying to do its best to keep the public informed of what is going on in their community. As the time it took them to complete their pending investigations grew longer, they decided that our counties should know about these pending investigations in order to be as informed as possible,” Clevenger stated.
Some speculate the state is attempting to inflate the case numbers, but Clevenger said that is not the case.
To combat COVID-19, none of the tactics have changed. Clevenger believes peoples’ mindsets toward the virus has become lax.
“I feel that with the decrease in numbers that we saw in May, people decided not to use the measures we had been taught. To try to control the spread again, we need to return to these measures. Social distance, wear face coverings, and practice effective hygiene,” Clevenger said.
Clevenger reported over 625 tests have been done by MMC and Port Lavaca Clinic combined. That does not include the Calhoun County residents who have tested at Twin Fountains or outside the county.
One of the encouraging signs not only in Calhoun County but within the entire Golden Crescent Region is the hospital capacities.
Clevenger said MMC’s capacity is at its usual census for this time of year, and the area hospitals are similar.
If there is a large influx of cases, MMC is prepared with a mobile medical trailer and an enclosed tent that can be used. For inpatients, MMC has secured extra beds from the state, which enables the hospital to increase capacity if the need presents itself.