So far in the state of Washington, if people tested negative for COVID-19 twice, they only counted once in the state test data.
This is because the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) was tabulating and issuing negative test data based on the total number of people tested, rather than the total number of tests administered.
That methodology will change, the DOH announced Wednesday.
Under the new system, for example, if a person tested negative in April and then tested negative again in August, the DOH will report as two negative tests instead of one.
The new approach will provide a more comprehensive and up-to-date picture of the state of COVID-19 infections in Washington, said Secretary of State for Health John Wiesman at a news conference Wednesday.
“It also becomes important when comparing the state of Washington with other states,” he later said in a statement.
Wiesman said the previous system the state used required health officials to constantly perform through new test data to extract results, which created challenges in accurately reporting Washington negative test results and the degree of positivity.
DOH, citing the latter in a series of technical difficulties, did not publish daily values of negative test results for July 31 to August 9. On Tuesday, August 10, the DOH released “preliminary” test figures that showed a drop in the number of people testing negative and an increase in the nationwide positivity rate to 6.7%.
Test figures were missing from the state COVID-19 dashboard. Wiesman said the agency will resume reporting these figures in about a week after it has changed its new counting system.
He noted that data issues have not affected the state response strategy or the overall trend of infections in the state.