ADPH: Two labs reporting old COVID-19 test results create record breaking spike in “new” cases

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MADISON COUNTY, Ala – On Thursday, September 24th, Alabama reported the highest number of new COVID-19 cases in a single day. 2,451 positive test results were recorded.

But the department of public health says that record breaking number is due to the fact that two labs provided test data to the state after not providing any information to ADPH the entire pandemic. About 1,500 of the positive test results were reported from those labs. Some of the results dated back to June.

Dr. Karen Landers with the Alabama Department of Public Health says the state has experienced ongoing issues with labs not reporting COVID-19 test results.

“Facilities have had to first of all, report when they may not have been involved in notifiable disease reporting or have had to develop an electronic interface to report to the Alabama Department of Public Health,” Dr. Landers said.

When a lab begins electronically reporting data to ADPH, Landers says it provides a historic file, which is what happened last week.

“And the historic file may go back… even some of the reports were from June, some of the reports were from August. But again, when this does happen it does affect our numbers,” she said.

ADPH released a statement on their COVID-19 dashboard addressing Thursday’s record breaking new daily case total. It reads in part, “There have been instances where ADPH was not aware of some of these laboratories, and these labs were not familiar with mandatory reporting of notifiable diseases.”

Alabama Department of Public Health

Landers says the new data reported last Thursday increased the number of total cases in the West Alabama and Tuscaloosa regions as well as some counties in Southwest Alabama.

She explained why the two labs didn’t report COVID-19 test results until last week…

“Part of it is electronic interface coming on board electronically when previously they had not been accustomed to transmitting data electronically,” she explained.

News 19 asked if the department of public health is concerned that there could be a number of labs across the state not reporting test results.

“I think our biggest concern right now is related to the point of care antigen testing, again, because that is not a high put through platform. That is almost a one test at a time or a few tests at a time,” Landers stated.

Those point of care facilities providing the rapid antigen testing could be a doctor’s office, urgent care, or college campus.

“This specific type of system does not have the set up to be able to transport information as opposed to other entities,” she said.

Landers says part of the solution to this ongoing problem is education. The state is also trying to locate where these tests are being administered.

“So, what we have done is asked the manufacturers where these machines or where these tests are in Alabama so we will know what practices they go to, so we can reach out to practices and entities and to remind them of the notifiable disease requirements,” she explained.

Landers says it’s imperative test results are provided to ADPH so the state can conduct contract tracing and report this information to the public.

This is not the first time ADPH has experienced a sharp rise in new confirmed cases due to a backlog of test results. In light of what happened last week, Landers says ADPH is developing a new component of their COVID-19 dashboard that will provide more information about daily positive test totals, explaining which days saw a spike in new confirmed cases due to a backlog of test.

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