Dallas County

State Says Coding Errors Contributed to Backlog of COVID-19 Data

The Texas Department of State Health Services says more than 100,000 backlogged coronavirus results were updated into the system after issues

NBCUniversal, Inc.

Several counties reported high numbers of new COVID-19 cases over the weekend, including Dallas County, but it was due to a backlog according to the state.

On Sunday Dallas County announced 5,361 additional positive cases which the county said is a result of delayed data due to the state's electronic laboratory reporting system.

The numbers stemmed from a five-month time span

  • March: 13 positive cases
  • April:149 positive cases
  • May: 80 positive cases
  • June: 52 positive cases
  • July: 4,298 positive cases
  • August: 603 positive cases

“It means we had more cases than we thought we had," said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins. "Most of the cases that came in this large group that we had yesterday were July cases, but this month we had 600 cases over what would be a 15 – 16 day period, so that won't change the numbers tremendously, so we’ll have to see what the medical modelers say."

According to a spokesperson for the Texas Department of State Health Services, the state's system which interfaces with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention program, is set up to where labs send electronic lab results.

From there, counties get the data.

Lara Anton, a spokesperson for DSHS, said they discovered some labs were sending over files that had coding errors which prevented it from being uploaded to the system.

She said they resolved the coding issue with a lab company that works with hospitals to upload 95,000 backlogged results. They also fixed an issue with 48,000 tests from a different lab. Anton said over the weekend Walgreens, which doesn't traditionally test for infectious diseases, ran into a coding issue as well.

Anton said there is not a standard way to send in the information, so labs may use different files, some even still rely on fax machines.

Prior to the pandemic, only positive tests from infectious diseases were recorded. The system could process less than 2,000 results a day. Now that the state needs to track both positive and negative cases, the volume of results has increased over the months, testing and the system's capacity, which was 48,000 a day.

Anton said the system was updated on Aug. 1. and It can now take more than 100,000 tests a day and faster.

The state and county said people who were tested were notified of their results as soon as they were ready. The backlog of data only impacted the recording of numbers for the state and local governments.

The state said even though there has been a delay, there are other ways local health departments can find out about cases. Anton said health care providers are required to report positive cases to the health department.

Last month there was an issue with a glitch in the state's system.

When asked, Judge Jenkins said he knows that people will be skeptical of what has happened, but he said it doesn't take away from what people need to do to keep themselves COVID free.

“It’s fair to be skeptical of the states computer system, we’ve had two big problems in 72 hours with that computer system, what you should not be skeptical of is the underlying science which has nothing to do with the state’s computer system and that is wearing a mask , staying six feet apart and washing your hands, and avoiding unnecessary crowds and any crowds that aren’t also masked. Those are the best ways to control the coronal virus," Jenkins said.

He also asked people who have tested positive to reach out to those they've been in close contact with. Jenkins said because they are now learning about prior cases, that means they did not follow up with those individuals at the height of their illness.

*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.

Contact Us