State discovers COVID glitch: 6,700 unreported tests

By: - February 16, 2022 4:11 pm

A medical worker holds a swab used to test for COVID-19. (Photo by Mladen Sladojevic/Getty Images)

State health officials have discovered about 6,700 previously unreported positive COVID-19 tests that date to the beginning of the pandemic nearly two years ago.

The error was found as the state decommissioned its website dedicated to COVID-19 statistics on Wednesday and scaled back reports to once each week on the Iowa Department of Public Health’s website.

“These test results were for individuals who received both a positive and negative test result on the same day, causing an error in the reporting logic which prevented them from being included in the daily counts,” according to an IDPH press release.

The department said those infected people were still made aware of their positive tests despite the glitch.

The change in reporting coincides with the end of the state’s Public Health Disaster Emergency Proclamation. Gov. Kim Reynolds announced about two weeks ago the emergency measures would cease as the worst of the pandemic began to subside.

“We need to treat it like we do other viruses, so the Department of Public Health will continue to monitor like they always have, like they do with the flu this time of year,” Reynolds told reporters last week.

The summary page for the state’s former COVID-19 site contained more information than the new reporting site. (Screen shot of COVID-19 in Iowa site)

The new COVID reporting differs from the state’s preexisting weekly reports about influenza. It’s more comprehensive in some aspects and less in others.

The new COVID-19 reporting borrows some aspects of the old site and is easier to parse than the state’s weekly flu reports. It contains a snapshot of positive tests for the past week and total positive tests and deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, but not new weekly deaths.

The new reporting graphs the statewide positive tests by day but has shed the previous two-week trend lines that helped decipher the pandemic’s trajectory. It maps each county’s rough, per-capita infection rate for the totality of the pandemic, but not deaths as before.

The flu reports track hospitalizations, which no longer appear in the COVID reporting. Instead the site points to a federally maintained tracker of COVID hospitalizations and outbreaks at long-term care facilities.

Iowa is recording more than 1,000 new confirmed coronavirus cases per day, according to the new site’s data, which is down from a peak of about 5,000 cases per day in January, according to the old site.

There were 446 people infected with the coronavirus receiving inpatient treatment at Iowa hospitals as of Wednesday. That’s down from a recent peak of about 1,000.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Jared Strong
Jared Strong

Senior reporter Jared Strong has written about Iowans and the important issues that affect them for more than 15 years, previously for the Carroll Times Herald and the Des Moines Register.