Local, state officials say guest on Fox News got it wrong when alleging Mahoning County ‘double counts’ COVID cases

Coronavirus

The Ohio Department of Health's press secretary Melanie Amato said the numbers are being read incorrectly

Editor’s note: This story corrects the title of Melanie Amato, the Ohio Department of Health’s press secretary. We regret the error.

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Both state and local officials insist they are not miscounting positive test results for coronavirus in Ohio despite claims from an online blogger in the Columbus area that a patient in Mahoning County was counted 15 times.

During the broadcast Wednesday of Ingraham Angle, Committee to Unleash Prosperity President Phil Kerpen told host Laura Ingraham that there are repeat tests going on, and the same positive cases are being counted as new cases in many counties in the U.S., including Mahoning County.

The example given was a person of unknown gender in Mahoning County, who is 80-plus years old and was allegedly tested 15 times. Kerpen cited documentation released by a Twitter user who alleged each test was counted as a new positive case.

“That’s not true,” said Ryan Tekac, Mahoning County health commissioner.

In an interview Wednesday, before the Fox News report came out, WKBN First News asked Tekac if multiple case counts can be linked back to one person getting tested multiple times over a short period of time and he said no.

“If I am a positive case and I test positive initially, they may decide to run two more tests on me because they are trying to get to a negative test. Those tests are not going to count. So I am counted as one number,” Tekac said. “In the event, let’s say, I become well and three, four or five months down the road I get reinfected and I retest again, I am going to be considered another positive case.”

The Ohio Department of Health’s press secretary, Melanie Amato, said the number 15 — or any number for that matter — next to an entry in the testing spreadsheet, which was referenced on the Fox News show, could be testing that includes many individuals. She said the reason it appears on one line is that the Ohio Department of Health is trying to condense the information to make it easier to read.

“The line is not to be read as only one person. What the line means is two or more people were tested on that same day in that same age range in that gender that tested positive for COVID,” Amato said.

Mahoning County Public Health issued a statement, saying the state system is designed to flag duplicate entries, and they are corrected.

Per the Ohio Department of Health, the report that one person was counted as 15 cases is false. This data is being read incorrectly. In this incident, 15 people around the same age (80 plus) were tested on the same day and were all confirmed positive, for example, mass testing conducted in a nursing home. It is only one line item in the data file on the Ohio Department of Health Coronavirus website, because ODH is trying to condense the size of the file to make it easier to read. It is not one person being counted 15 times.”

You can read the spreadsheet at coronavirus.ohio.gov and click on the “download summary data CSV” tab.

Documented multiple case counting has been reported in Virginia and Texas, among others, the network reported. One county official in Texas admitted that duplicate cases could be counted but that the number is very small.

Even though the blogger who posted the claims initially has taken them down, local experts said they have seen increased hospitalizations over the last month.

“It’s not as high as it was in March and April, but we are definitely seeing an increased number of patients,” said Dr. James Kravec, Mahoning County medical director. “That tells me that there is more community spread of COVID-19. It tells me we must continue to socially distance.”

That’s something experts say we may need to do for some time to come.

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