CLEVELAND (WJW) — “I would agree wholeheartedly that our numbers are probably underreported,” said Summit County Health Commissioner Donna Skoda.
It’s becoming more difficult for public health officials to accurately track the number of COVID cases in Ohio.
“We have a deficit in our knowledge about how many people are infected right now. That’s because, as you said of the home testing kits, most people who test positive aren’t really going to call their local health department and report it,” said Dr. Robert Wyllie, chief of medical operations at Cleveland Clinic and Zone 1 lead for Ohio’s pandemic response.
Skoda says there are plenty of at-home test kits, but not many results are being reported to them.
“The first 11 days in April, we had about 273 cases and only 5% of those were home tests.”
She says that makes it difficult to gauge the level of community cases.
“We know that’s an unreliable number so we really look at other things like the severity and the number of hospitalizations and we haven’t seen that increase yet, but that’s usually a week or two behind.”
Ohio is also among several states that are no longer reporting data daily but rather on a weekly basis, which Wylie says creates a bit of a delay.
“It’s a huge obligation to report seven days a week on a hospital and healthcare system in terms of where do you get the manpower to do that? How long do you stress the system trying to get that data in place every day?”
With home testing gaps and delayed data, will we know if and when we are in another surge?
“Certainly, there’s probably going to be a lag there. I think eventually if we see a large increase in the numbers, we’ll see increases in hospitalizations and those will be easier to count so I think we can rely on that as a backup,” said Wylie.
There is also a concern in public health about how things may trend with people coming back from spring break and holidays like Easter approaching.
Health officials also want to encourage people to get their booster shots during these moments of low case counts.