Accuracy in reporting COVID numbers a struggle in Pa.

Coronavirus in Pennsylvania

CORRECTION: This story has been updated with responses from the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Pennsylvania’s Department of Health continues to struggle with its coronavirus numbers, which has been a complaint throughout the pandemic. Though most agree it’s gotten better with real-time accuracy, critics say it needs to do better.

Almost every day, the state health department releases COVID-related statistics — cases, deaths, vaccination rates. Last Tuesday, it reported 73.7% of Pennsylvania adults were vaccinated. The next day, that number fell to 68.8%.

“They dropped that on a Wednesday before Thanksgiving which makes me wonder, did they know this was happening, or did they wait and do that right before the holiday?” State Rep. Katie Klunk (R-York) said. She will meet with Health Secretary Alison Beam on Tuesday and push for better reporting of COVID numbers. “We’re supposed to trust science and trust that data if we know mistakes are being made by the department?”

Mistakes, yes. On purpose, no, said Health Department Spokesman Barry Ciccocioppo. “It is an overwhelming job with the volume of data coming in.”

The department of health updated data on the state’s COVID dashboard on July 9 and has been working with the CDC ever since to get the numbers corrected on the national dashboard. The discrepancy in the numbers is noted on the state’s dashboard, but the timing of that CDC change was outside Pennsylvania’s control.

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Double counts of COVID positives or the vaccinated happen. “Some people were being entered into the system two times not intentionally. If somebody puts in your name and spells first and last name wrong, you’re going to be entered as two records,” Ciccocioppo said.

Philadelphia and Pennsylvania are two different lands in data world and only the CDC is receiving their combined information. Why isn’t Pennsylvania syncing up with its biggest city? “We’re not able to because the two systems are different,” Ciccocioppo said.

“It does create mistrust among the public and that’s not good in the middle of the pandemic,” Klunk said.

Of course, the pandemic brought the problem to light. “The system was never designed to handle this volume of data which is constant and the real-time demand that people have now, that was never anticipated when these systems were created,” Ciccocioppo said.

“The department has had well over a year and a half to try and get this right,” Klunk said.

According to Ciccocioppo, the demands of the pandemic are constantly changing and the department is continuously reviewing new data and making updates as necessary to ensure that the public has access to the latest, up-to-date information on cases, hospitalizations, deaths, vaccinations, and post-vaccination cases.

To view the state Department of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard, you can click the link here.

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