State has been reporting inaccurate COVID-19 positivity rate due to computational error

Indiana health officials have erred in reporting the state’s COVID-19 positivity rate since the beginning of the pandemic due to a problem with the way it was computed, resulting in a lower rate than would be accurate.

Dr. Kristina Box, Indiana health commissioner, said Tuesday that she believed that the reported 7-day positivity rate for the state has consistently been two to three percentage points lower than it should have been.

“The error we discovered is in the software logic coding used to calculate our positivity rate. The error has existed since we began reporting the data,” Box said during Gov. Eric Holcomb’s weekly press conference on the pandemic. “We’ve been working with outside data scientists to identify the issue and to develop a fix.”

Next week, the state plans to correct the state’s 7-day and all-time positivity rate, as well as the methodology for calculating the 7-day positivity rate for counties.

However, other statistics related to the pandemic reported by the state — including the number of cases per 100,000 individuals, the number of deaths and the overall test counts — have not been affected, Box said. Holcomb emphasized that the movement trends in the positivity rate throughout the pandemic closely mirrored the accurate numbers, and thus officials wouldn’t have made any different decisions.

On Tuesday, state health officials reported that the state’s 7-day positivity rate was 12.2% for all tests and 24.2% for unique individuals.

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