Good Morning. I’m Aaron Fox, the Chief Business Development Officer and Public Information Officer for the Matagorda County Hospital District in Bay City, Texas.
On the evening of July 13th, we announced that Matagorda County would begin using Texas Department of State Health Services, or DSHS, as the source for all COVID-19 public reporting. At that time, we disclosed that there was about a week delay on average for the oldest cases reported in any given daily data set. Knowing that the majority of Matagorda County residents being tested for COVID-19 were already being tested outside of the county, meaning that 60 to 70 percent of the numbers being reported through the old method were already up to a week behind coming from DSHS, using their numbers was, and still is, the obvious, and most reliable choice for Matagorda County.
The new reporting structure went into effect on July 14th. At that time, under the old method, our locally reported total case count was 521. A week later, on July 20th, the total case count was 475, for a difference of 46 cases. This 9 percent decrease in total case count could be attributed to any number of scenarios, including over-reporting or misreporting of antibody tests that were later removed by DSHS.
Regardless, it’s been a week, and our numbers are appropriately adjusted, verified, and reported. Under the old method of reporting, our numbers were still delayed by several days when everything was running smoothly, and again, the majority of those cases still came from DSHS reports just as they do now under the new reporting method.
As the number of Matagorda County residents tested outside of the county continues to rise, we’re nearly right back where we started from a reporting standpoint. Only now, we have more confidence in our numbers going forward. These are the same numbers used by the Governor and our elected officials, and they’re the same numbers that anyone anywhere can verify at any time through the DSHS dashboard and the additional data sets provided there.
Moving forward, I would like to encourage you to prioritize the trend of active COVID-19 cases rather than the total number of cases reported when making decisions for your family or business. You can run this trend yourself if you’re so inclined since the data are readily available, or you can review the trend in the EOC’s Monday report. The trend of active COVID-19 cases in our community is hands down the best indicator of the trajectory of the health status of Matagorda County.
Regarding COVID-19 fatalities, reports of suspected fatalities bypass our [regional] DSHS office and go to a separate department in Austin. That means the DSHS teams assigned to Matagorda County do not manage the fatality information.
We previously reported 11 COVID-19 related fatalities of Matagorda County residents. Of those 11, five have been confirmed and reported by DSHS. We expect the other six, and up to three more, for a total of 14, to be confirmed and reported soon if deemed COVID-related by DSHS according to their guidelines.
It is very important to realize that fatalities are not like the other numbers we report, where one can just wait for them to catch up. There is a possibility that some of the suspected COVID-19 fatalities reported may not be certified as COVID-related deaths after the patient’s chart is reviewed. That means that all we can know for certain is that we officially have 5 COVID-related deaths of Matagorda County residents. We will continue to publicly disclose the number of suspected COVID-19 fatalities in the weekly EOC report, but we will not add these numbers to the dashboard until they are certified by DSHS.
And remember, the 14 suspected COVID-related fatalities I just mentioned represent Matagorda County Residents who passed away in Matagorda County. We have no way of knowing how many Matagorda County residents pass away in health facilities outside of the county.
We know that change, like the one we’ve had in the reporting structure, is not always pleasant. We appreciate the words of encouragement from those who understand the need for this change, and we’ve listened to those who have expressed their concerns. From everyone here at the Matagorda County Hospital District and the Emergency Operations Center, to every single one of you, regardless of your position on this new reporting structure, thank you for your time and your feedback.
May God bless you all.