Delaware council wants more detailed COVID-19 test reports

PAUL COMSTOCK
editorial@thisweeknews.com
ThisWeek group

The Ohio Department of Health could do a better job of keeping Delaware County informed on the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, Delaware City Council members said Sept. 14.

In a meeting livestreamed on Facebook, council approved a resolution "... requesting the Ohio Department of Health provide pertinent data relating to the total number of COVID-19 tests performed for residents of the city of Delaware and Delaware County, Ohio, to the Delaware General Health District."

Council member Lisa Keller said the ODH is doing a good job of keeping the county up to date on the number of COVID-19 cases.

That alone, however, is not enough to accurately depict how quickly COVID-19 is spreading, she said.

For example, she said, if the ODH reported the county had 187 new cases and days later reported 137 new cases, one might conclude the spread of COVID-19 has slowed.

By contrast, she said, if the 187 cases were among 4,000 persons tested, that yields an infection rate of 4.7%. If the 137 cases were among 1,500 persons tested, that's an infection rate of 9.1%, she said.

Under that scenario, she said, the spread of COVID-19 would be increasing, and currently the county has no way to know if that's happening. The county needs to know how many people were tested in the health district, she said. The ODH promised in August to provide those numbers, she said, and it has not happened.

"As it stands, we have an unsolvable math problem when we try to understand if there is more or less disease transmission between reporting periods," she said. "We can't decide if our positive cases are increasing or decreasing. ... We're six months (into the pandemic), and we still don't know because we don't have the total number of tests being given in our county."

An accurate gauge of COVID-19's spread can affect the public's behavior, level of fear and risk-taking, she said.

Shelia Hiddleson, health district commissioner, told council knowing the number of people tested locally would be helpful.

It would be "just one data point (that would) give us a fuller picture," she said.

She said the health district has reached out to the ODH and, "they are still working on getting us that data."

Because of the number of laboratories processing COVID-19 tests in central Ohio, she said, it would be impossible to guess how many tests are performed in the county without the ODH's help.

After the meeting, she said, "we are getting the addresses for those with a positive test. We are just requesting addresses from the labs for those with a negative test, so we can determine the total number of tests being performed."

Council member George Hellinger voted against the resolution.

In remarks that he described as "overarching more than this resolution," he told council that "each of us must double down on our efforts to minimize the spread. ... In my opinion, based on the current information provided by the Ohio Department of Health, any actions we take or have taken previously that encourage individuals and crowds to gather in our businesses, on our downtown sidewalks and throughout our community, in defiance to public-health guidelines, borders on criminality. ... Money, when lost, can be regained. Life, once lost, is forever."

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