LDH clarifies COVID-19 reporting, data use agreements for parish offices

Published: Aug. 5, 2020 at 11:50 PM CDT
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CONCORDIA PARISH, La. (KNOE) - Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Louisiana Department of Health and local offices have been working to report the latest COVID-19 case counts.

Here in Northeast Louisiana, several different Sheriff’s Offices, Offices of Emergency Preparedness, and Homeland Security have been keeping track of and reporting numbers as they receive them from hospitals, clinics, and testing sites.

Some agencies have reported different numbers compared to the LDH; for some this created confusion and some people wondered if the data was incorrect.

A spokesperson from the LDH responded and debunked the idea that they were reporting duplicate numbers.

Case counts reported on the LDH website represent individual persons with positive results for COVID-19, not numbers of positive test results received. An individual may be tested multiple times and receive multiple results (positive, negative or otherwise), but regardless of repeat tests that person is represented a single time for case counting.

LDH uses an extensive de-duplication process involving automated and manual review to account for non-exact person matches due to data entry errors, incomplete data and other issues in the lab data reported to LDH. Also, great care is taken to correctly assign cases to a home parish to avoid duplication in instances where a person is tested in more than one parish. The actual number of positive cases is likely higher than what is reported on the LDH dashboard. This may be due to test reporting lags, incomplete testing, and undetected cases among asymptomatic individuals and those who become sick but never get tested.

The Concordia Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness director Timothy Vanier said that he personally contacts hospitals and clinics for his daily reports in addition to the numbers from the LDH.

“The laboratories and the state are so overwhelmed. They are not inaccurate numbers that they see from LDH, but that those numbers are behind anywhere from seven to fourteen days,” Vanier said.

He also said he makes sure duplicates are removed from data and that each positive person is only counted once.

Most recently, the LDH has required officials to sign data use agreements to maintain privacy and confidentiality of patient data.

We work closely with the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, the Louisiana State Police and the Louisiana Sheriffs' Association. While LDH is the original data source, we do not send this data directly to the OPEs and sheriffs -- GOHSEP and LSP do. The issue was never duplication in our data; rather, it appears there was confusion about what the OEPs were and were not receiving.

These are standard data use agreements and we are putting them in place because we have concerns personal data on residents are not in all instances being protected properly. This is protected health information under HIPAA - which we take very seriously. One of the main aims of HIPAA is to protect the privacy of patients by ensuring certain types of information are safeguarded. Many OPEs and sheriffs already have signed these agreements because they share this goal - protecting their residents’ privacy.

Vanier and the Ouachita Parish Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness director Neal Brown both said they have signed the agreement.

Vanier said it is of utmost importance to stay on top of their data to keep citizens informed while also abiding by HIPAA guidelines.

“We do maintain high confidentiality, it has to be an entity that can be trusted by the general public,” Vanier said.

To see the latest COVID-19 numbers in the state, click here.

Copyright 2020 KNOE. All rights reserved.

Copyright 2020 KNOE. All rights reserved.