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Called Out for Nearly 500% Increase in COVID Cases, Madera County Pushes Back
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By Jim Jakobs, Digital Producer
Published 3 years ago on
November 26, 2020

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A nearly 500% increase COVID-19 cases appeared so significant that the state of California singled out Madera County for being a virus hotspot in a media call.

The state was referring to a jump in the county’s daily count of cases from Nov. 1, when just six new infections were reported, to Nov. 18 when 34 new cases were confirmed.

“You may say, well that’s still a small number,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, California’s secretary of health and human services. “But that rate of increase, 467% over a small two and a half week period, is an important message to all of us that this can go very quickly.”

Madera Official Says Hospitalizations Have Now Flattened

In a Tuesday night Facebook live, the Madera County Department of Public Health says new data shows hospitalizations have actually flattened out the last 5 to 7 days. “It has not continued to increase,” says Madera County Health Officer Dr. Simon Paul. “This is because people knew what to do. When they saw the cases going up they went up to going back to what they were doing before in terms of wearing masks.”

Sara Bosse, Madera County’s public health director, adds the calculations Ghaly used didn’t paint an accurate picture.

“It is point-in-time instead of 7-day average.”Sara Bosse, Public Health Director for Madera County

“It is point-in-time instead of 7-day average,” said Bosse in an email to GV Wire℠.

But, the bottom line? Madera County remains in the most restrictive ‘purple’ tier for reopening.

Reporting Methodology Questioned

Here are the two ways Bosse says the data Ghaly used was misleading.

“First, it is point-in-time instead of 7-day average,” said Bosse.

Madera’s 7-day average of cases by report date:

7-day average new cases reported Oct 26 – Nov 1 15.71 average cases reported
7-day average new cases reported Nov 12 – Nov 18 38.71 average cases reported
146% increase*

“Second, it uses report date instead of episode date,” said Bosse. “Why has the state used episode date?”

As an example, 10 people with symptoms are tested on November 1st. They go to different test site on the 2nd:

  • 3 results received on the 5th
  • 2 results received on the 6th
  • 3 results received on the 9th
  • 2 results received on the 10th

“In this example, report date doesn’t tell the true picture,” says Bosse. “(The) report date gives the illusion of a few cases on the 5th, 6th, 9th, and 10th. In reality, 10 people became sick on November 1st. Episode date allows us to see the true trend.”

Hopes of Moving to ‘Red’ Tier Dashed Weeks Ago

On October 20, Madera County met the state’s ‘Blueprint for a Safer Economy’ criteria to enter into the ‘red’ tier.

“This is great news for Madera County and reflects both the efforts of Madera County residents and the local business community,” Bosse said in a news release at the time.

The county needed to meet the same metrics for just one more week to move to the less restrictive tier. That did not happen.

Restaurants, movie theaters, and churches that had hoped to open with an indoor capacity of 25% must still wait.

Current Case Counts

According to the latest state data available for Madera County, there is an 11.2% COVID-19 positivity rate (14 day average). That represents a 4.8% increase from 14 days ago.

The total COVID-19 hospitalization number has increased from 14 last Friday to 21 as of Monday according to an email from the county to GV Wire℠ Tuesday morning.

State data also shows 4 ICU beds available in the entire county as of Wednesday. That is the fewest available beds since September 23 when there were 3 beds open.

Dr. Mark Ghaly describes rising case counts in his Thursday November 19th COVID-19 news briefing. He referred to Los Angeles and Madera counties as virus hotspots. (CA. Dept. of Health via YouTube)

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