COVID-19: 188 new cases in Johnson County, 990 statewide; IDPH information appears to have a new problem

Jordan Sellergren/Little Village

The Iowa Department of Public Health reported on Sunday that another 188 residents of Johnson County had tested positive for COVID-19 during the 24-hour period ending at 10 a.m. The department’s official 14-day average positivity rate for the county also increased to 22.3 percent.

In its Sunday analysis of the spread of COVID-19 in metro areas with populations of more than 50,000, the New York Times ranked Iowa City third in both “greatest number of new cases, relative to their population, in the last two weeks” and “metro areas where new cases are rising the fastest, on a population-adjusted basis.” Ames ranked first on both lists. Iowa was the only state with two metro areas in the top five on either list.

The surge in new COVID-19 cases statewide also continued with IDPH reporting 990 positive tests between 10 a.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m on Sunday. Linn County had 50 new cases confirmed during that time period, according to IDPH.

The department also reported two more deaths from the virus during the 24-period ending at 10 a.m. on Sunday, increasing the state’s COVID-19 death toll to 1,110.

IDPH has said it’s corrected the problem that caused the number of deaths reported on its COVID-19 information site to suddenly drop by 214 deaths on Saturday. Although the sudden drop in the number of deaths was most noticeable change, it wasn’t the only statistic on the site that fluctuated on Saturday.

“The number of Iowans listed as having been tested for the virus dropped from 624,834 to 503,680,” Tony Leys of the Des Moines Register reported. “The number of Iowans listed as having tested positive for the virus dropped from 63,122 to 51,183. And the number of Iowans listed as having recovered from the virus dropped from 46,394 to 37,416.”

An IDPH spokesperson said the changing numbers were a temporary problem due a “maintenance upgrade to the state’s website” in an email to Leys.

By 9 p.m. on Saturday, the problem had apparently been resolved.

IDPH had not announced the site was undergoing maintenance before the numbers began to change. This apparently temporary problem happened less than two weeks after IDPH Medical Director Dr. Caitlin Pedati admitted her department had knowingly reported bad COVID-19 to the public while it worked on a problem that caused its data management system to backdate test results.

The problem came to light because Dana Jones, an Iowa City nurse practitioner, had been independently monitoring the COVID-19 numbers reported by IDPH and discovered the steady increase in the number of cases attributed to earlier months.

IDPH said it was a “glitch” that was posting all subsequent tests to the date of a person’s first test, so if someone later tested positive, that positive didn’t show up on the day it occurred, but on the date of the first test. During her Aug. 20 news conference, Gov. Kim Reynolds said the backdating problem had been fixed the previous day.

But on Sunday, Dana Jones tweeted that the numbers IDPH is publishing are still changing in unexplained ways. Since the Aug. 19 when the backdating problem was fixed according to IDPH, “we have lost 25,242 ‘Individuals Tested’ between the dates of 3/1 and 8/16,” Jones tweeted. “Each day, more tests are lost from prior dates as we gain tests in more recent days.”

Jones said IDPH had not replied to her questions about these changes.

IDPH’s COVID-19 case reporting system and the department’s information site were both created and maintained by the Utah-based tech companies that were awarded a $26 million no-bid contract for Test Iowa.

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