Tennessee changing way COVID-19 cases, close contacts are determined

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The way active COVID-19 cases and close contacts are calculated in Tennessee is changing to reflect the new definitions given by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Active cases have previously been considered active for 21 days. The active case time is being reduced to 14 days.

TDH case count reports will include figures for “inactive/recovered” cases and will no longer include data for “recovered” cases. “Inactive/recovered” cases will include people who are 14 days or more beyond their illness onset date (or, for asymptomatic cases, their specimen collection date).

Close contact parameters are also changing.

“For several months the CDC’s definition of close contact has been within six fee of an infected individual for 10 minutes or more,” TDH Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey said.”Recently the CDC has transitioned to defining a close contact as at least 15 minutes of exposure. Thus to be consistent with the new standard, beginning today, we will be using the 15-minute exposure metric reducing the number of people that need to be in quarantine.”

The changes will drastically change the number of recoveries and inactive cases as well as close contacts. A swing in the numbers can already be seen comparing the Knox County Health Department’s and state’s numbers.

At 11 a.m. today, KCHD reported 2,382 active cases. The state says only 905 cases are active.

Other changes include:

Correcting county locations

TDH is also correcting discrepancies in county location for about 1,700 cases, as the county to which they were originally assigned does not correspond correctly to their street addresses.

This can occur in laboratory reports because some lab systems automatically assign county location based on the patient’s ZIP code, which may be incorrect if the ZIP code straddles county lines. These cases will be corrected all at once, which will result in case count changes for some counties. The state says there is a solution in place to automate the process in the future.

New reports and data points

Starting Sept. 3, individual county data snapshots will provide information on case counts, hospitalizations, testing and more for each county at www.tn.gov/health/cedep/ncov/data/county-data-snapshot.html. In addition, the new weekly critical indicators report includes information to help stakeholders monitor trends in cases, symptoms, testing capabilities and health care system capacity. TDH is also adding data on current hospitalizations to daily information posted at www.tn.gov/health/cedep/ncov.html.

“We’re pleased to be adding new reports to help support rapid public health actions in Tennessee communities,” Tennessee Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey said. “We also want to promote data transparency and help Tennesseans understand the reason case counts for some counties will change as we correct information based on their addresses.”

Tennessee’s county health departments continue to offer COVID-19 testing at no charge to anyone who wishes to be tested. You can find a map of health department locations and contact information online at www.tn.gov/content/tn/health/cedep/ncov/remote-assessment-sites.html. County health department testing sites will be closed Sept. 7 for Labor Day.  

TDH is posting updated COVID-19 case numbers by 3 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time each day at www.tn.gov/health/cedep/ncov.html. Find additional information at www.tn.gov/governor/covid-19.html and www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.

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