**UPDATE: After this piece was originally posted, DHHS published an amended estimate of presumed recoveries: 852,732. The index posted below will incorporate that number and not my estimate.**

This week’s index will not be based on this week’s estimate of presumed recoveries from the NC Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). I don’t know what happened this week, but that number is miscalculated this week and far too high. You might even say “Some problems exist” with the number.

As of this writing, at least, DHHS says that the number of “Patients Presumed to be Recovered = 874,509” for March 15, 2021. DHHS also reports that, as of March 15, the total number of cases is 886,218, while the total number of deaths is 11,709. Those are the numbers this index uses to derive active cases, which are the only cases capable of spreading infection. As explained below, “active cases are lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 minus recoveries and deaths.”

But with DHHS’s number of recoveries, that formula this week would yield zero active cases, which can’t be the case. That’s because the recoveries number is exactly the difference between total cases and deaths (i.e., 886,218 – 11,709 = 874,509).

A month ago, I explained in a note to the index that, “To help me keep an eye on the integrity of these data, I keep my own estimates of (for example) recoveries.” I also explained that my estimates for recoveries tend to run higher than DHHS’s. For the week ending March 15 (as of this writing, because my estimates change as DHHS’s numbers change), my estimates for recoveries is 856,818. Given that my estimate tends to be higher, but that I need a credible figure for the index, I am rounding that estimate down to 850,000 and using that figure for this week’s index. [Note: As per the update above, the index will use DHHS’s amended figure of 852,732.]

That said, here is the NC Threat-Free Index for the week ending March 15:

  • As of March 15, there were an estimated 852,732 North Carolinians presumed to be recovered from COVID-19
  • Active cases comprised just 2.5% of NC’s total case count (note: a case of COVID isn’t a permanent infection, and only someone with an active case of the virus can conceivably transmit it to you)
  • Active cases represented 0.2% (two-tenths of one percent) of NC’s population (note: active cases are lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 minus recoveries and deaths)
  • More than 24 out of every 25 (96.2%) of NC’s total cases were recovered, meaning they are no longer infectious
  • Only about 0.1% of people in NC had died with COVID-19 (regardless of the actual cause of death)
  • Meanwhile, about 91.7% people in NC had never had a lab-confirmed case of COVID-19, despite the PCR test cycle threshold set so high as to produce a large amount of false positives (note: this proportion will always decline, but we have been living with this virus since February 2020, as far as testing is concerned)
  • All things considered, nearly 99.7% of people in NC posed no threat of passing along COVID-19 to anyone — a virus most had never had and the rest had recovered from (note: this proportion will fluctuate based on relative growth in lab-confirmed cases vs. recoveries, and it is likely understated because it does not account for vaccinations)