NCDHHS can gradually eliminate one of the most important COVID figures we track. Why?


RALEIGH, NC (WNCN) – One of the most important figures tracked by public health executives during the COVID-19 pandemic may be coming out.

And just when it looks so much better than last month.

Health and Social Services Secretary Cody Kinsley said the percentage of positive tests – also known as the percentage of positives, or the level of positivity – is a measure “from which we can move away in the coming months”, adding that it is “not so important to us. like other indicators ”.

Is he right? There is no unequivocal consensus among health experts.

“There are so many variables at the moment that it makes the metrics a little less significant,” said Dr. Eric Pettigrew, a family physician and associate professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. “And I agree that we can get a little away from that. I think it’s still good to watch this. “

Dr Pia MacDonald, an epidemiologist with RTI International, says the percentage of positive indicators does matter when comparing short-term trends – from one week or one month to another – although changes in the overall testing system complicate long-term comparisons. .

(Source: NCDHHS)

“The trend and the way it is growing and declining still mimics the number of times they grow and decrease in our communities,” MacDonald said. “And so that figure is still a good indicator of what’s really going on with the virus locally.”

Health officials relied on a positive percentage to determine the number of new cases in the context and to find out if enough people are being tested.

This figure sharply amplified during omicron burst in January. In the first half of this month, at least 30 percent of tests confirmed new cases – six times higher than the target. It has since fallen closer to 10 percent.

The percentage of positives depends on the number of people taking the tests, and these results are reported to the state database, which calculates the rate at which they confirm new cases.

But not every test counts. NCDHHS uses only those PCR tests that are reported electronically directly to the state’s NC COVID database.

A year ago CBS analysis 17 found that the percentage of positives became less reliable because the number of tests conducted across the state dropped so much that the numbers disappeared.

This was not a problem during the amicron surge: testing boomed.

The 19 days with the most tests in the entire pandemic ran from December 30 to the end of January.

And home tests also became more popular when the Biden administration delivered these rapid tests directly to the homes of people who requested them.

The NCDHHS reports an average of 16,000 antigen tests per day, which is currently the highest figure for any month in a pandemic – and these are the only ones the agency knows about because they are not always reported to the state and never take into account the percentage positive indicators.

“The rise in antigen testing, including home testing, makes this figure less reliable,” Kinsley said.

So what should we look at instead?

Kinsley points to the percentage of emergency department visits for COVID-like symptoms – an indicator that is updated every Thursday – along with system data measures the level of the virus in wastewater across the state.

“These figures give us really early signs – along with hospitalizations and, tragically, deaths – to get a more holistic view,” Kinsley said.

And Pettigrew says counting cases, both absolute and relative, along with the number of patients in hospitals and the number of deaths – and more importantly, broke them demographically to pinpoint which groups are doing better and worse.

“At the moment, there are more significant figures,” Pettigrew said.

NCDHHS can gradually eliminate one of the most important COVID figures we track. Why?

Source link NCDHHS can gradually eliminate one of the most important COVID figures we track. Why?