Spike in county cases likely not as serious as data suggests

Kalamazoo County health department says latest data to be re-evaluated.

Kalamazoo County data showed 32 new cases of COVID-19 in the community on Wednesday — a major jump — but a senior health official said it’s mostly a result of a previously unreported backlog from a testing center, which itself reflects a testing problem that inhibits the ability to slow the spread of the pandemic.

That was the highest single-day new caseload since May 6, according to data posted on the Kalamazoo County website, which “is indicative of both an outbreak and a backlog of cases,” said Mary Franks, Epidemiologist at the Kalamazoo County Health & Community Services department.

“We got a ‘data dump’ of cases that were tested up to a week ago. Several of these cases were part of an outbreak,” Franks said.  “We will release more information in regards to the outbreak if it is deemed to be of public health significance.”

New data is added to the website the day it comes in and then adjusted when the full vetting process is completed. For example, a case that was received Wednesday as positive may be more accurately moved to an earlier date’s statistics.

“As the cases are graphed by onset date, we expect the spike we see today will lessen with the disease investigations done to determine onset date and contact tracing,” Franks said.

There has been an uptick in cases recently, especially compared to the lull in most of May and June which is attributed to compliance with stay-at-home instructions and other measures such as wearing masks and social distancing.

The data showing the seven-day spread of new cases — a more accurate way to assess a week-long trend than a single day count — had been relatively low over the past week, averaging six on Aug. 10 and 4.4 on Aug. 11. It became 8.29 on Aug. 12.

The new evaluation of the “data dump” results could increase the past week’s seven-day spread, however.

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The spread had been in the low to mid teens for most of July and August.

“Unfortunately, receiving positive results a week later does not allow for swift public health intervention,” Franks said, such as contact tracing and getting those infected to quarantine before spreading it further. The county and country nationwide has struggled with timely testing. The reason for the delay “could be multiple reasons. Most likely the results were not timely due to the laboratory that performed the testing.”

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