Tuesday, April 20, 2021

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EDITORIAL: Truth behind the numbers

Last Thursday, CBS13 Sacramento aired a 1-minute, 45-second segment about Coronavirus in Colusa County, and according to the report Colusa County received attention from the White House, and is under an ‘explosive’ outbreak – thus leaving the community confused.

While no confirmation was given that Colusa County officially received attention from the White House, a statewide map was positioned in the background in which President Donald Trump spoke about the cancellation of his campaign convention in Florida, an event over 3,000 miles away from Colusa County. The map has Colusa County highlighted in a dark pink noting 200-499 cases per 100k according to the maps legend.

“The 22,000-person county has reached a positivity rate of 21 percent over a seven-day period.” CBS13 Sacramento said.

How did the news station discover the reported 21 percent positivity rate? And why was Colusa County highlighted on the map for having 200-499 cases?

With help of Colusa County Counsel, Marcos Kropf, it appeared the information was obtained from the County Data Monitoring chart from the California Department of Public Health’ website (https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/COVID19CountyDataTable.aspx). For Colusa County, the website reports 21.0 percent testing positivity, a seven day average with a seven day lag, and 548.8 case rate per 100,000 (per capita) in over 14-days with a 7-day lag.

This newspaper assumes, based on the definition of calculations on the CDPH’s website, that the state calculated the 21 percent positivity rate by calculating the sum of the number of tests administered along with the number of confirmed positive test results averaged over a 7-day period.

The raw numbers? In the reported 7-day period (est. Jul. 14~Jul. 20), Colusa County received 433 test results, with 94 of those testing positive – equating to 21.0 percent.

What is disconcerting is that the CDPH calculates its case ‘per capita’. Colusa County does not have a population of 100,000 people and a complicated math formula is used to calculate the rate.

To calculate Colusa County’s  per-capita rate, you first take the number of people tested positive during a reported 14-day period (ext. 124 for Jul. 14~Jul. 20), and divide it into the county population of 22,593. The result is 0.005488425619. Now multiply the result by 100,000, to finally get 548.8, this is the number of cases per capita. (Cov19 / 22,593) x 100,000 = PerCapita

Basic math will discover that Colusa County has a total positivity rate of 1.16 percent, or 263 cases, since its first reported case on Mar. 27. This is based on the county’s estimated population (covid19.ca.gov) of 22,593. OverallPositiveTotal / 22,593 = PositivityRateByPopulation

How the CDPH calculates its numbers is faulty, most especially when Colusa County has a disadvantaged low population that must be artificially inflated, and calculating testing positivity is skewed by the fact that County of Colusa is not participating in random testing. Most testing is administered when individuals are experiencing symptoms through their healthcare providers, or tested through verified contact traced households. This is largely due to the lack of testing supply availability.

Colusa County had a low and steady case rate since Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Stay-at-home order was issued on Mar. 4. The County received its first confirmed positive COVID-19 case on Mar. 27, and the County Health Officer expanded the State’s Stay-at-Home order on Apr. 10 with three positive COVID-19 cases.

A month later, on May 15, the County’s expanded order expired, and on May. 26, the County Board of Supervisors voted to allow the community to open without further restrictions – thus with just five confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 at the time.

As summer began, graduations and various private celebrations and gatherings were held, and the total positive COVID-19 cases jumped to 46.

Some community members have blamed the increase in numbers on the Superivosrs action to ‘re-open’ the local economy too early, however, local health officials have not traced or confirmed COVID-19 transmissions from a local business.

Elizabeth Kelly, Colusa County Director of Health and Human Services and Public Health said, “the increase in cases is due to family and social gatherings.”

Additionally, California Gov. Gavin Newsom recognized that multigenerational homes exist in many rural communities where multiple families live together, causing concern for rapid spread in the household.

While several community members have called for additional restrictions, or another lockdown, the action is easier said than done. Colusa County’s workforce is primarily agricultural, leaving most of its residents as essential workers.

Since their announcement in May, County leaders gave citizens the ability to resume normal functions as they desire, with the request that they exercise kindness and good judgement. Today, County leaders have expanded their stance by recommending residents follow state guidelines, wash their hands, keep a 6-foot distance from others when in public, and wear a mask when in public or when 6-foot distiancing cannot be maintained. County Officials also recommend residents to refrain from attending or hosting social gatherings.

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