Local health officials have addressed a recent error in the calculations in the percentage of Mobile County residents with known cases of COVID-19 who have died or required hospitalization.
Going back to March, the Mobile County Health Department (MCHD) has released a daily dashboard with a number of data points on the local outbreak of COVID-19, including the number of known cases, deaths from the disease and broad demographic information about those who’ve contracted the disease.
Mobile County is also the only area in all of Alabama that’s regularly released some details about where cases are occurring in the community by breaking the prevalence of cases out by zip code.
However, for around nine days or so, MCHD listed the percentage of COVID-19 cases who have died or required hospitalization incorrectly as part of information it localizes from data on the number of statewide deaths and hospitalizations reported to the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH).
It should be noted the actual number of deaths and hospitalizations weren’t reported inaccurately, but the percentages listed next to those cases were slightly inflated — generally around one or two percentage points — for a little more than a week between April 28 and May 8.
For example, on May 6 MCHD reported 1,275 cases of COVID-19 and 75 deaths it said represented 7.5 percent of all cases. In actuality, those deaths occurred in about 5.9 percent of local cases. Those percentages — sometimes referred to as the “death rate” or “hospitalization rate” — aren’t as widely cited as the actual number of those outcomes, but have been used in some local media including Lagniappe. Prior to April 28, the percentages had been calculated correctly every day since MCHD started reporting them April 2.
MCHD epidemiologist Dr. Rendi Murphree said Monday her team realized the discrepancy after being contacted by reporters, and quickly addressed it. A day later, the percentage calculations were corrected.
“For a few days we were calculating the percentage of people who had died incorrectly and so I went back and checked my statistical code and got that fixed up,” Murphree said. “There’s always some amount of human error that goes into producing these reports, and we want to get them as accurate as we can. We’re all working at the speed of light and there are several people helping me compile and publish these reports every day, and we will always correct any issues as soon as they come to our attention.”
Murphree also specifically noted that local media partners had helped point out other small issues in MCHD’s data before, including a small error in its calculation of the number of recovered patients last week. She added that the agency appreciates the input and is always happy to address those issues.
As of Tuesday, May 12, Mobile County was reporting 1,489 cases of COVID-19 and 93 deaths from the disease and continues to have the highest numbers of any Alabama county in both categories. Of all the patients with confirmed cases, 12.6 percent have been hospitalized and 6.2 percent have died.
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