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Websites show discrepancies in Marshall County data

USAFACTS.ORG GRAPHIC — USAFacts.org has graphs displaying COVID-19 cases and deaths in Marshall County. The information is used by the Centers for Disease Control.

COVID-19 data supplied by the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) website continues to show problems and discrepancies.

On Saturday, the number of deaths in Iowa attributed to COVID-19 fluctuated. The number started at 1,108, fell to 894 and then jumped to 1,109. Also, the number of Iowans who have tested positive fell from 63,122 to 51,183 and then jumped back up.

Some discrepancies in Marshall County numbers were found between the IDPH website and USAFacts.org. That website is a data-driven, non-profit information source used by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), PBS, NPR, Fox News, The Washington Post and CNN.

For example, USAFacts.org reports 74 new cases on April 25 in Marshall County, which was the day with the highest number. The IDPH recorded 67 cases that day.

The highest number of reported cases in Marshall County by the IDPH is 72 on April 16. By comparison, USAFacts has five new cases recorded for that day.

The cumulative number of cases in Marshall is 1,639, according to USAFacts. The IDPH lists Marshall County with 1,649 cases, but the IDPH data is recorded in real time.

On Aug. 20, Gov. Kim Reynolds acknowledged a technical problem that resulted in incorrect reported COVID-19 data by the IDPH. A computer problem had backdated test results, making those results appear on the website as occurring months prior. That has created faulty data in the number of cases and the rate of positivity.

Schools and data

The number of cases and the rate of positivity in counties is to be used by public school districts in Iowa to make decisions as to whether or not to hold online classes. Districts can only host online classes if the positivity rate in the county is 15 percent during a two-week period.

Story County has a positivity rate of 22 percent, so the Ames Community School District will hold online classes when school begins Sept. 8.

The IDPH shows a positivity rate of 12.6 percent for Marshall County, and school is scheduled to begin for Marshalltown Community School District students on Sept. 8.

Marshall County Public Health Nurse Pat Thompson is expecting case numbers to increase once children are back in class.

“I know the schools are working hard to do the best they can,” she said. “However there is always a chance as 40 percent of the people who have it are asymptomatic. I will not be surprised if it rises because I don’t have my head in the sand. It will happen because we are human beings and this is a contagious virus.”

The belief that children are not as susceptible to the virus or that they cannot spread it is not accurate, Thompson said.

“They have an equal chance of getting it and spreading it,” she said.

Thompson has been spending a lot of her time educating people in Marshall County on how to prevent contracting COVID-19, and how to take care of themselves if they do get it. She continues to urge people to wear masks, practice social distancing, cover their coughs, wash hands and stay home if they are sick.

Marshall County deaths

Four more deaths attributed to COVID-19 were recorded in Marshall County since Thursday.

There have been 32 deaths in Marshall County since the first on April 29, and that number matches on the IDPH website and on USAFacts.

The latter has the dates of when the deaths have occurred. Most of the deaths happened in May, which had 14 deaths. The month of April had two deaths; June, two; July, six; and August had eight deaths.

Marshall County has had the tenth highest number of COVID-19 fatalities in Iowa, according to USAFacts. The counties with higher death numbers are:

• Polk, 225 deaths

• Linn, 93

• Black Hawk, 74

• Woodbury, 56

• Muscatine, 51

• Wapello, 49

• Dallas, 39

• Dubuque, 36

• Pottawattamie, 34.

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Contact Lana Bradstream at 641-753-6611 or lbradstream@timesrepublican.com.

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