Why Dallas County Doesn't Report Recoveries From COVID-19

Dallas County says it can't give an accurate recovery number, so they are not posting the information online

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There are some discrepancies between state and local jurisdictions when it comes to reporting how many people have recovered from the new coronavirus.

For example, through Wednesday, the Texas Department of State Health Services reported 2,038 people out of 4,370 who tested positive from COVID-19 had recovered, but on the Dallas County Health and Human Services website, there's no number listed.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said the county doesn't have an accurate way to find out if someone has recovered because of the number of people who have tested positive and the lack of personnel to conduct interviews.

"The scientific way to do it is to have an epidemiological interview with a person and look at their medical records to verify that they are in fact recovered or at least do the interview," Jenkins said. "But we don't have the manpower to do those interviews. So, since we can't get you accurate information, we're just not giving you the information."

The numbers the state reports online are from an estimate.

A spokesperson for the DSHS said if a local jurisdiction doesn't report a recovered number, they use estimates based on patient trends.

The state said the estimates are based on the percentage of COVID-19 patients who require hospitalization, which is about 20%, and the average length of time it takes hospitalized and non-hospitalized patients to recover.

DSHS said the duration is roughly 32 days for people who are hospitalized, compared to 14 days for patients who are not.

The state is in the process of expanding the contact tracing workforce in Texas, according to a DSHS representative.

During a Dallas City Council meeting Wednesday, some members brought up the topic of exploring whether to use funds to help their partner, Dallas County.

"Essentially, as we reopen, we’re only going to be successful if we're ramping up testing, we’re ramping up tracing and we’re able to contain the virus," said Dallas City Council member Jennifer Staubach Gates, who represents District 13. "We’re going to be navigating a whole new COVID-19 life and that’s going to take extensive testing, extensive tracing, and we need to make sure that those resources for our area are met."

Counties with fewer cases, like Denton County, said they had concerns that if the number of positive cases was to increase, adding additional staff would be a concern, but for now, they're OK.

"During those interviews, we then turn our cases over to additional staff to follow up a week and two weeks later to monitor them for the resolution of their symptoms," said Dr. Matt Richardson, director of Denton County Public Health. "It’s what the CDC calls a non-test-based strategy, so then we note those resolutions of symptoms and then that individual is then recovered from COVID-19.”

Richardson said the county has three full-time epidemiologists and a chief epidemiologist, along with others who help.

"Depending on the workload, I’ve tasked additional staff members to assist in the contact tracing and the resolution the tracking of recovered individuals," he said. "We do provide that information daily, it’s public on our website, that information is provided to the state as well.”

Denton County, which has fewer than 900,000 residents has had 846 confirmed cases, of which 418 are current and 406 have recovered, with 22 deaths.

"As cases grow and we return to normal functions and normal operations, staffing is more and more of a concern, and so we’re able to meet the need currently, but we do recognize that could change over time," Richardson said.

He said because of more testing, numbers will go up.

"We’re encouraged that the stay-at-home order really flattened the curve here in Denton County, but there is a concern of a resurgence in cases," Richardson said.

Other counties that don't have as many cases as Dallas County, such as Collin County, said they have nine staff members from their epidemiology program, 28 health department staff members from other programs and 68 non-health department employees helping with the contact tracing process.

Collin County said the process consisted of phone calls and entering information into an online tracking database, so multiple users can input and review contact information.

A spokesperson for Collin County said they don't plan to hire more people to trace COVID-19 patients because they're able to call the patient the same day they receive a positive result.

So far, the county has had 839 confirmed cases, 260 are active, 557 have recovered and 22 have died.

Dallas County has reported 4,869 cases and 123 deaths.

Tracking COVID-19 Cases in North Texas Counties

NBC 5 is tracking the number of COVID-19 related cases, recoveries and deaths in North Texas counties. Choose a county and click on a city or town to see how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting your area.

Cases are cumulative by day and are subject to change, dependent on each county health department's reporting schedule and methodology. Data may be reported county-wide, by city or town, or not at all. Cases, recoveries and death counts in 'unspecified' categories are used as placeholders and reassigned by their respective counties at a later date.

Data: County Health Departments, NBC 5 Staff
Nina Lin/NBC

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