The Checkup: When the state's COVID-19 numbers don't figure

Posted
Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.  

The Berkshire Eagle

With this daily feature, The Eagle runs down breaking local developments in the coronavirus crisis.

WHEN NUMBERS DON'T FIGURE: A few followers of the state Department of Public Health's daily "dashboard" reports on COVID-19 data have written to us at The Checkup with questions about some of the state's figures. We looked into things.

A reader from Pittsfield noticed that the state's numbers for the three-day average of COVID-19 deaths (19 as of Monday) weren't matching his own calculations, when he took any three-day sequence of death totals, added them all up, and divided by three.

That, as everyone should know, is how you calculate a three-day average.

We checked the math, too, and also found the state's averages were consistently lower than what we calculated.

One factor is that while the daily dashboard lists both confirmed and probable cases, the state only uses confirmed cases for the average. But there's more.

A spokeswoman for the DPH told us that because data related to the coronavirus is funneled in from many sources, identical reports of the same case or death are sometimes received, but that duplication can be overlooked on the first pass.

Article Continues After Advertisement

However, officials conduct routine "data cleaning," in which duplicate reports are identified and combined.

Because of those revisions, the DPH's three-day average for COVID-19 deaths can be lower than the figure produced by a simple averaging of the figures that appeared in earlier dashboard reports for confirmed cases. That's because the state is using revised figures for the original daily totals on deaths, after weeding out duplications in the data.

Another reader, this one from Dalton, wanted to know why "unknown" is such a commonly occupied category in data sorted by county. The answer we found may not be satisfying. The state's numbers come in, as noted above, from many sources. Any given data point that lands in a category marked "unknown" indicates that whoever initially recorded the information for that specific patient or case marked "unknown" in place of a real answer.

Article Continues After These Ads

LEADING INDICATORS: The state Department of Public Health provides the following statistics daily as indicators in the fight against coronavirus infection. Each provides a number and then a percentage change since April 15.

- Seven-day weighted average of positive test rate: 1.9, down 93 percent.

- Three-day average of number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals: 760, down 79 percent.

- Number of hospitals using surge capacity to care: 2, down 90 percent.

- Three-day average of COVID-19 deaths: 19, down 88 percent.

Article Continues After Advertisement

THE NUMBERS: Berkshire County's case numbers and death toll both held steady Monday. To date, 594 have been confirmed to have COVID-19; the number of people killed by the disease remained at 44, the total since June 19.

The DPH said the number of confirmed and probable deaths as of Monday statewide climbed by 35 to 8,095. New cases for Massachusetts increased by 101 to 108,768.

The case tallies (and death counts) in neighboring counties: Franklin, 366 (54); Hampshire, 959 (110); Hampden, 6,765 (664).

AT THE HOSPITALS: As of Monday, Berkshire Medical Center reported caring for one patient, not in intensive care. Fairview Hospital in Great Barrington had no cases.

The COVID-19 patient count for other western Massachusetts hospitals: Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, 14 cases, two in ICU; Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield, two cases, neither in ICU; Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, 20 cases, four in ICU; Mercy Medical Center in Springfield, two cases, neither in ICU; Holyoke Hospital, 10 cases, none in ICU; Baystate Noble Hospital in Westfield, no cases.

The numbers include both confirmed and suspected cases.

To contribute news to The Checkup, please email lparnass@berkshireeagle.com or call 413-588-8341.


TALK TO US

If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.




Powered by Creative Circle Media Solutions