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COVID case numbers in Lucas Co. show alarming spike

Published: Aug. 5, 2020 at 5:32 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Lucas County holds a dubious honor this week -- it’s the number two hot spot for COVID cases in the state of Ohio.

According to Lucas County Health Commissioner Dr. Eric Zgodzinski, the ranking is based on Lucas County having 183 cases per 100,000 people.

That number reflects a sharp jump in cases from last week when two pop-up testing sites were held in Toledo. According to the LCHD, 1,352 people were tested over two days and 161 people were positive for COVID. That adds up to an 11% positivity rate within this sample, which is a vivid snapshot of how widespread COVID is in Lucas County.

“That’s pretty high. Anything under 5% is what we’re shooting for; of course, zero is where we really want to be.” Dr. Zgodzinski said.

Ohio’s total number has tended to be higher by a couple of hundred at any given time. Dr. Zgodzinski says that is simply due to a delay in the two data systems synching up.

“Data catches up, it doesn’t catch up, so I would imagine it’s probably the same thing,” Zgodzinski said.

And finally, why is Lucas County higher than other counties around the state? Dr. Zgodzinski says traditionally this virus travels around the area in waves from other larger counties.

“When we were flattened out, they were having an uphill trend in their numbers. And we started a couple of weeks later of our uphill trend. They’re starting to come down,” he said. “So have we reached a plateau yet, are we going to start to come down here in a couple of weeks?”

“There are several reasons discrepancies in the reporting exist and this is a very common thing to see with real-time information and data that is moving at the pace that COVID-19′s is.

Cases are assigned to each County's jurisdiction based on the individual's permanent address. This means that individuals tested in other counties who are Lucas County residents will be assigned as our cases even if they were tested elsewhere. In the same vein, not all individuals who test positive for COVID-19 in Lucas County will ultimately be our cases if they reside in another county.

Where an address is not immediately known for the individual tested, they are initially assigned a jurisdiction based on the testing location. Most of the time these cases are updated through contact tracing and transferred to the correct jurisdiction once our epidemiologists and contact tracers have thoroughly vetted the case.

Sometimes case results are sent directly to TLCHD through secure fax and other times they are sent by the lab to ODH. When this happens, ODH will transfer the case information into the disease reporting system TLCHD accesses to conduct contact tracing and update case information. Depending on the route the original case information goes, sometimes ODH, and sometimes TLCHD knows about positive cases sooner than the other. Other times cases originally assigned to Lucas County are found to belong to another jurisdiction after contact tracing has been completed.

This is why the numbers will not often match. The CDC has also designated a category for "probable" cases that must meet strict criteria. Both ODH and our epidemiologists at TLCHD must be in agreement that a case meets the criteria defined by the CDC to be considered a probable case. Sometimes cases that begin as probable cases become confirmed cases if the individual ends up being tested and the result is positive for COVID-19.

In terms of the number of deaths being different, this is largely due to the lag time in which TLCHD and ODH receive death information and death certificates. Depending on how the physician and coroner and other officials process a decedent's information, it can sometimes take several weeks for a death certificate to be signed off on or reach either the local or state health department. Additionally, "Probable" deaths are often identified by ODH through a death record search. Whenever they find an individual's death certificate that lists COVID-19 as a cause, but the individual was not previously tested, they are sent to TLCHD for verification and then reported in our counts.

Ultimately, once COVID-19 moves from an “everywhere” outbreak to just local hot-spots or we see almost no additional cases occurring you will begin to see the numbers align more and more. Until then its just a matter of many moving parts and avenues through which the information is first obtained and later investigated to ensure case data is as accurate and complete as possible.”

Lucas County Health Department

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