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Why you should be concerned about Utah’s COVID-19 test positivity rate

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Utah ranked ninth among the many 50 states over the weekend for its excessive proportion of exams that come again as constructive.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Kylie Archuleta and Joshua Brimhall conduct COVID-19 testing on the University of Utah Health’s Farmington Health Center on Friday, July 31, 2020.

One of essentially the most watched — and infrequently most alarming — information factors of the COVID-19 pandemic is the test positivity rate.

It’s a easy metric: Out of all of the COVID-19 exams processed, what number of of them come again constructive?

But Utah’s true rate — which hit 32.2% on Monday — is extra sophisticated to calculate, as some newbie information analysts have found.

For instance, the Utah Department of Health reported Monday that the rolling seven-day common for the test positivity rate was 30.8%. (Public health officers use seven-day averages for a lot of metrics, as a result of they reveal broad tendencies reasonably than the broader up-and-down swings of the each day studies, leveling out such components as weekends and holidays.)

But if you took the variety of constructive instances through the earlier seven days — 19,043 — and divide into the variety of complete exams processed, which was 54,219 for the seven days ending Monday, you’d get a determine of 35.1%.

David Nierenberg, an airline pilot dwelling in Salt Lake City, discovered related discrepancies as he examined UDOH numbers final week.

“The last several days of positivity percentage reporting has been off,” Nierenberg wrote to The Salt Lake Tribune final week. “Would you please post the actual number tested over the past week in the next article to correct the record?”

So why is the state’s official positivity rate totally different, and decrease? With the each day numbers launched by UDOH, “you don’t have all the negative results factored in,” defined Tom Hudachko, a division spokesman.

Positive test outcomes get reported sooner than unfavorable ones, so UDOH sets in some lag time — often round 5 days — for the unfavorable outcomes to catch up, Hudachko stated. Without that lag, the positivity rate would be artificially excessive, he stated.

A positivity rate hovering round 30% is alarmingly excessive as it’s. Public health specialists say such a excessive positivity rate is an indicator that there are many individuals who have the virus and aren’t getting examined.

Dr. Todd Vento, infectious ailments doctor at Intermountain Healthcare, famous Monday that Utah ranked ninth among the many 50 states this weekend for its test positivity rate.

“We still have quite a bit of positive transmission,” Vento stated in a web based media briefing Monday.

Targeting areas of Utah with excessive positivity charges, Utah is offering free antigen testing for COVID-19 this week in 15 counties, with funding from the federal CARES Act. The aim is to determine people who find themselves now infectious and assist gradual the unfold of the virus, in response to a UDOH spokesman.

“Testing is important, but that’s not how you get yourself out of a pandemic. You don’t test your way out of a pandemic,” Vento warned. “You prevent, and stop disease from spreading. That’s how you get yourself out of a pandemic.”

Government officers, Vento stated, “fell in this trap early on” that “we just have to test more to show we have more negative [tests]. That’s really the wrong approach. The right approach is we have to test more to find out what the truth is.”

UDOH has a goal of a 5% test positivity rate, Hudachko stated. That low rate, Vento stated, would “show excellent control” of the virus’s unfold. “We haven’t been 5% for months and months, nor have many states in the United States,” Vento stated.

The strategy to convey the test positivity rate down, Vento stated, is to get folks vaccinated and, till that occurs, hold doing what health specialists have been saying for months: “You have to wear a mask, 100% of the time when out in public and in contact with others. You have to stop gathering, and [you have to be] keeping your physical distancing.”

Vento added, “The message isn’t going to change because the calendar year changed. The message is the same.”

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