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Why am I confused about COVID statistics?

Last Sunday’s News and Sentinel reported two different numbers for Friday’s active cases. The headline read “1,000 new active COVID cases” and the text “reported 2,685 new active cases.” Clearly 1,000 and 2,685 are not the same.

Why do they differ? I believe that active cases were confused with (new) cases. (New) cases and active cases are different statistics. They report different information.

DHHR also reported the number 2,685 to be “cases” in another document and the newspaper compared 2,685 with the number of “cases” reported the day before. I believe someone simply confused cases, meaning new cases, and active cases. It’s a mistake that could have been clarified; no big deal. But, why the confusion exists is a more important question.

On the 20th, WVDHHR updates and news stopped reporting (total) “cases” for each county and began reporting “active cases” instead. I understand active cases to be (new) cases minus daily resolved cases — people who either recover or die. Changing from “cases” to “active cases” introduces confusion.

Before the 20th, the governor also reported (total) cases, simply called “cases,” in his press conferences. Beginning with his press conference on the 20th, he switched to “active cases.” The change was just slipped in.

I have not seen any acknowledgment that the change, cases to active cases, was made. If DHHR wants to follow active cases rather than cases, then both need to be made public for the county level not just for the entire state.

I calculate daily Wood County new cases from DHHR county (total) “case” data as my measure of community spread. I need to know if it is safe for me to go outside. Without county data from the state, this is no longer possible. I just know it is bad. If WV were its own country, it would be among the top five in the world as measured by (new) cases on a population basis. It is really bad!

Understanding complex data is difficult. When changes are made in reporting, different types of data have similar names, and it is not acknowledged when a switch is made, even best efforts to communicate lead to confusion.

So why should I not be confused?

Solution: Demand transparency. Get vaccinated. Get a booster. Wear a quality mask when risk is high. Protect our neighbors, every little bit helps.

Warren Peascoe

Vienna

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