Alabama’s coronovirus positivity rate now highest in nation


Alabama currently has the highest coronovirus positivity rate in the nation.

Data from the Alabama Department of Public Health shows that the percentage of COVID-19 clinical trials reported that are currently positive comes in at 35 percent. The next closest state, Iowa, sits at 31 percent.

The epidemic positivity rate has been very high, reaching about 50 percent in this month. But there have been declines in post-holiday cases here and throughout the country, with Alabama having the highest rate.

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Alabama’s 7-day average for new virus cases has dropped slightly over the past few days after falling dramatically in mid-January, but the increase in cases does not explain the state’s positivity.

There are two components that make positivity – the number of new cases and stated tests. In Alabama, and another state with high rates, the lack of testing is helping to increase the numbers.

Through January 27 – the last day for which state-level data was available to all states – Alabama had 2,776 new virus cases per day, and only 7,914 people tested per day. So far this year, Alabama conducted 232,035 new tests – or about 5 percent of the state’s population. It is the fifth lowest percentage of the country.

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The bottom six states are in the top six for each positivity rate by testing as a percentage population. Those states are Alabama, Idaho, South Dakota, Iowa, Kansas, and Pennsylvania. This is no coincidence – a lack of testing leads directly to a high positivity rate.

But there may be another reason for those states to be higher or lower on those lists.

In Alabama, the test is calculated by how many individuals are tested, rather than counting each test used. According to data compiled by the COVID tracking project, it is one of four states in this way. The other three are South Dakota, Idaho and Kansas – each also near the top in positivity rates. Several other states, including Pennsylvania and Iowa, report data testing partially by individuals.

For example, a health worker in Birmingham may conduct tests once a week, but this data will only enter Alabama’s system once. This difference in reporting may mean that the test numbers of those states are being reduced.

At the onset of the epidemic, the World Health Organization recommended that governments aim for a positivity rate below 5 percent to lift some restrictions.

ADPH said on Thursday that it does not expect that people will be affected by repeated testing of its numbers.

Assistant State Health Officer Dr. Karen Landers said in an email to AL.com, “Recurrence testing has not been recommended since July, 2020, patients should not have more than one test.” “Thus, ADPH reports the number of unique individuals tested.”

And there are other potential problems with Alabama’s test data. All laboratories throughout the state that carry out virus testing are required to report their data – both positive and negative test results – for ADPH. It is possible, and perhaps also likely, that some are not doing so.

In Fayette County, a small county in northwest Alabama, positivity rates, as calculated with reported trials and reported cases over the past seven days, are the highest in Alabama at 72.7 percent. Fayette has tested an average of 18.9 people per day compared to the previous week, and ADPH reported 13.7 cases per day during that time. But in those days, the state reported more new cases than tests conducted.

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Due to various issues with Alabama’s test numbers, it is difficult to say what the true positivity rate is. Page of ADPH’s Coronovirus Dashboard lists positivity rates for up to 10 weeks, and restricts the data to laboratories that report both positive and negative tests. For the week ending January 23, that chart showed that Alabama conducted 142,000 tests with a positivity of 13.1 percent.

But several national organizations – including Johns Hopkins and Baker Hospital Review – cite a 35 percent positivity rate. The difference can be troubling, as positivity rates have been used as a measure to reduce positivity restrictions and when to advise institutions for travel advice.

Do you have an idea for a data story about Alabama? Email Ramsey Archibald in [email protected], And follow him on Twitter @RamseyArchibald. Read more Alabama data stories here.

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