by Jon Sanders
Director of the Center for Food, Power, and Life, Research Editor, John Locke Foundation
Under state health bureaucrat Mandy Cohen, the NC Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has repeatedly issued data revisions in recent weeks that, combined with the Cooper administration’s preference for data secrecy and tardiness, make it difficult for concerned citizens to know how things are progressing with COVID-19 “metrics for reopening.”
Friday, Sept. 25, was another day for muddying the waters. Perhaps it has to do with Gov. Roy Cooper’s announcement coming later today. WRAL reported it rather blandly under the headline “Gov. Cooper expected to make announcement on Phase 2.5 in COVID-19 briefing.” (Usually these headlines sound promising, only to result in nothing; if the headline sounds like no big deal, does it portend more loss of liberties?)
On Monday, Sept. 21, I showed that according to Cooper’s own metrics, the state should be reopen. I showed that all of the metrics — “trajectory of COVID-like syndromic cases,” “trajectory of cases,” “trajectory of positive tests as a percentage of total tests,” and “trajectory of hospitalizations” — were all down and had been trending down for several weeks. As you can imagine, such information is inconvenient if your desire is to keep the state under not-yet-Phase 2.
DHHS’s data change affected cases and positive tests as a percentage of total tests and made data observations and comparisons much more difficult. The News & Observer explained:
North Carolina is marking a grim milestone: surpassing 200,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus.
The state blew past the number Friday with the addition of new testing data, which caused a spike of more than 6,000 cases from the day before. The sudden surge is attributed to health officials now reporting the results of antigen tests that backdate to May 20 — based on updated guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The effect was to report a one-day increase of 6,142 cases, even though nearly all of them occurred well before Sept. 25, going back (as it turns out – or so far) all the way to May 15.
We’re supposed to believe it was a wild coincidence that when this decision to start counting new kinds of tests adding over six thousand new cases, it just happened to make the state’s total case count “blow past” the “grim milestone” of 200,000 cases. Or that this sudden influx of cases just happened to come with an 18.1% test percent positive rate, skyrocketing the 7-day rolling average from where it had been for 10 days — below the arbitrary 5% metric set by Cooper for reopening — to 8.6%, where it hadn’t been since mid-July.
It also would affect active cases, which had fallen to 14,712 under the “old” data. Active cases are the state’s total case count minus deaths and recoveries. People with active cases of the virus are the only people who can conceivably transmit the virus to you. Even then, that risk is low and it depends on several things:
The graph atop this post shows how active cases in North Carolina looked before DHHS added in antigen tests and how they look now. Apart from bumping the count up by several thousand, the revision doesn’t change the trends we have already observed:
Here are more takeaways: