How Are COVID-19 Cases Reported By Your County?
DALLAS – The counties in North Texas have different, but similar COVID-19 reporting structures.
The transparency of information released regarding how the numbers are compiled when reporting COVID-19 cases is provided by Local Health Authority sources.
In Dallas County, Lauren Trimble, Chief of Staff for Judge Clay Jenkins, told us several weeks ago Dallas County Health and Human Services uses the CDC and the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists definition of confirmed COVID deaths, which is the same as in New York City. She did not return recent calls concerning if the situation/reporting has changed.
Ellis County COVID-19 Reporting
Ellis County has never had a public health department. This means unlike a metro county, all COVID-19 cases within Ellis County are tracked by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS). Nathaniel Pecina, Public Information Specialist for Ellis County said these cases are then delivered to the counties Local Health Authority. They notify and report the numbers to the Ellis County Office of Emergency Management.
“Sharing the loss of life in the press releases not only provides a whole picture of the impact the virus has had in Ellis County, but it is also is essential in relaying this is a member of our community,” Pecina said. “While we might never receive the background of these residents each one of them was a friend, a family member, a loved one, they each have a story. “
Ellis County currently has 64 active COVID-19 cases, 12 deaths and 205 recoveries as of the data released today (5/19/20).
Tarrant County COVID-19 Reporting
Richard Hill, Senior Public Information Officer for the Tarrant County Public Health, said laboratories who perform COVID-19 tests for Tarrant County residents are required to report positive cases to Tarrant County Public Health (TCPH). They then post the information on the county website dashboard, at coronavirus.tarrantcounty.com.
“As of May 14, Public Health recorded 4, 211 positive cases in Tarrant County, and 117 deaths,” Hill said. “As well, 828 people have recovered. You can also find a breakdown of cases and deaths by city, zip code, gender, age group, race, and ethnicity, plus information about testing, hospitalizations, resources for families, and Opening Texas. The website is updated daily.”
Hill said Tarrant County believes it is important to share as much information as possible about COVID-19. This enables people to make informed decisions about how to protect themselves and their families.
“Unlike the flu, there is no vaccine for COVID-19 at this time,” Hill added. “We continue to encourage residents to stay home as much as possible; engage only in essential activities; maintain social distancing; and to cover mouth and nose with a mask or scarf if you do go out. Older adults and people of any age with serious chronic medical conditions are advised to cancel or postpone nonessential travel.”
COVID-19 Reporting in Johnson County
In Johnson County, Jamie R. Moore, CEM, Johnson County Emergency Management said the county does not have a health department. By default, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) is the “health department” supplying information to Johnson County.
“In addition, the county has a Local Health Authority (LHA), which is an individual doctor in the community that can provide guidance to the Commissioners Court related to health of the community,” Moore said. “There are over 30 counties in North Texas that have a similar set up.”
In Johnson County, the Local Health Authority receives a daily update from DSHS. That data includes age, sex, and address of the positive cases. The state does not track “recoveries” because that is more of a diagnosis term by a physician. They do provide “date of last home isolation,” which is in other words “when a person is released from quarantine.”
“My office receives the data from our LHA,” Moore explained. “We consolidate that information into various charts, graphs and spreadsheets. Daily we post on our social media accounts (Johnson County Emergency Management Facebook and Twitter) the daily numbers, as well as a breakdown of cases by City within the County. We also post a daily Situation Report on the county website, www.jocotx.org, which includes the same data. The graph we post daily includes the number of persons released and deaths.”
Johnson County Uses Graphs
Every Friday, Johnson County also publishes additional graphs, the density or heat map, cases per 10K population, and a graph depicting cumulative cases versus released cases.
“It is vital to report daily numbers so that our community as a whole can understand the current level of risk and track trending in the spread of the virus across the county,” Moore said. “We believe that providing the public this basic information allows them to make the best decisions for themselves and their family.”
Currently, Johnson County has a cumulative total of 121 confirmed cases, 85 released cases, and have reported four deaths.