KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A change regarding how active and inactive COVID-19 cases are classified as Knox County cases has led to another drop among those numbers.

The changes were announced at Wednesday night’s Knox County Board of Health meeting and expanded upon during Thursday’s Knox County Health Department briefing.

The Health Department reported 560 fewer active cases Thursday, 965, than it did on Wednesday, 1,516. Inactive cases increased by 641 going from 8,714 to 9,355.

Charity Menefee,  director of communicable and environmental disease and emergency preparedness of the KCHD, said the changes are a result of using two different data sets — the state Department of Health data set based on geocoded, or permanent address data, and the Health Department’s jurisdictional data.

“The states data was only assigning jurisdiction based on what the cases provided as their permanent mailing address This data leaves out the folks who are currently living in Knox County but have a home address in another county or state and have been assigned to our jurisdiction for the case investigation and follow up.

“Even though their permanent address may be elsewhere, these individuals are currently living in Knox County and isolating here and it is our team who is conducting the case investigations. Because of that, they are part of the true burden of disease here in our community. As of today, all cases are appropriately categorized as active and inactive and are calculated from numbers reported by Knox County Health Department using our jurisdictional data as it is assigned in the same reporting system.”

Charity Menefee, director of communicable and environmental disease and emergency preparedness of the Knox County Health Department

According to Menefee, the largest group of people taken off the active role are likely to be college students returning to study in Knox County that have met the inactive definition of 14 days or more beyond their illness onset date or, for asymptomatic cases, their specimen collection date.

The natural lag between collecting and reporting the data in the state and county data sets as well as the comparison of the two data sets to arrive at the new numbers caused the active cases to decline and the inactive cases to rise.

Menefee went on to say the total confirmed case count has not changed, just the current active and inactive cases.

“This was really about the reporting of whether they are still in isolation or not,” Menefee said, noting that health data usually lags at least a year before being presented. “This is real-time data being done in a way that is truly unprecedented.

“I’ve been in public health for over 20 years and we have never presented data this way. We are committed to being transparent and open and we want to present the most accurate data we have.”

New charts

The Knox County Health Department also introduced two new charts to its COVID-19 dashboard. The first shows new cases of the novel coronavirus in Knox County per 100,000 population. As of Wednesday there are 12 cases of the virus per 100,000 people.

The second chart shows the percent positive of cases per the number of people tested. The seven-day average is 6.08% of people tested have been found positive with the virus. Wednesday’s percent positive was 6.92%.

Both charts will be updated each Wednesday.