COVID-19

(Des Moines) -- Iowa officials unveiled a new method for reporting COVID-19 statistics over the weekend.

Late last week, Iowa Department of Public Health Director Kelly Garcia announced that the state's COVID-19 case database -- coronavirus.iowa.gov -- would begin reporting total positive tests versus total positive cases, causing a sharp increase in the number of positives added to the state's website over the weekend. Previously, Garcia says case investigation was done for each positive patient to count them as one case, even if they had tested positive multiple times in a short time span. Now, each of those positive tests will be entered into the system.

"As antigen testing became more readily available and commonly used for routine testing, the number of tests by individual began increasing significantly -- it really exploded," said Garcia.  "The process to de-duplicate these tests by individual has become even more complex."

Garcia says a number of at-home COVID-19 testing kits are expected to come on the market this year, which would further add to the workload of sorting out individual cases.

"While this is certainly good news for many reasons, the expansion of testing approaches will further limit our ability in the Department of Public Health to monitor all test results at an individual level," said Garcia.

Garcia says the change conforms Iowa to what other states report for data. She says they had originally hoped to make the change in the fall.

"We were finalizing these plans and expecting to change them, but in the thick of the fall and into the early part of the year, we were responding to a surge," said Garcia.  "So, the timing wasn't right then, but it is now."

Additionally, the department will no longer publicly report 14-day positivity rates for individual counties, but instead for the state as a whole. The daily COVID-19 tracker page at kmaland.com has been updated to reflect reporting changes at the state level.

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