CORONAVIRUS

Iowa releasing more data on COVID-19 testing

Total number of tests administered had been secret

Medical staff talk to people lined up for the novel coronavirus Covid-19 test at the Test Iowa site, 5755 Willow Creek D
Medical staff talk to people lined up for the novel coronavirus Covid-19 test at the Test Iowa site, 5755 Willow Creek Dr. SW, in southwest Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Iowa’s Public Health Department announced Friday it has added data to its online dashboard that gives the public a more detailed accounting of the total number of virus tests conducted.

Previously, the state released data about tests only in a format that related to an individual, not the total number of tests that were done.

Those who tested negative or positive on multiple occasions had only their most recent test results included.

The new data shows that more than 2.54 million tests have been reported this year for state residents and nearly 260,000 were positive. That reflects about 1.23 million individuals who were tested and 240,000 confirmed infections.

It’s unclear whether the change will help the public better understand how the state calculates positivity rates, which are key indicators of community spread and used to determine school openings and closings.

Independent researchers routinely have reported much higher positivity rates than the state does, based on publicly available data.

The department said Friday that the averages will continue to be calculated based on individuals tested, not total tests.

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The state’s COVID-19 website at coronavirus.iowa.gov also added a new calculation Friday that shows the number of individuals positive per population of 100,000 statewide and in each of 99 counties over the last two weeks. The department said those trends are “more comprehensive indicators of recent virus activity” than case and positivity rates alone.

As of Friday, 405 out of every 100,000 residents in the state had tested positive in the last seven days, down 1 percent from the prior week.

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